Many inventories fail to convince the adjudicators of the Tenancy Deposit protection Scheme because they fall far short of the evidential standards required. The fact that over 90% of cases are found in favour of the tenant indicates that if you fail to supply the tenant with a proper professional inventory you may as well not bother at all.
With over 23,500 deposit disputes last year, a figure that is set to increase as tenants become more aware of their rights, it has never been more important to have an independent, professional inventory. An inventory is a record not only of a property and its contents, but also crucially their condition at the start of the tenancy.
These are the most common reasons inventories fail, with tips on how you can ensure your inventories are up to scratch:
Reason 1: The landlord used an out-of-date inventory that didn’t reflect the condition of the property and its contents accurately. Which is a common problem when agents or landlords try to cut costs by using an old version rather than pay for a new inventory, which is not recommended. Solution: Clearly a new inventory must be done at the start of each tenancy if it is to properly reflect the condition. Some companies offer a “remake” but this is undermining the credibility and evidential strength of the inventory.
Reason 2: The inventory was dated significantly before the start of the tenancy, and therefore the property may have changed condition in the meantime. Solution: Ensure that the inventory is scheduled to be conducted as close as possible to the tenant move in date.
Reason 3: Photographs have not been signed and accepted by the tenant which means they could have been taken at any time. Solution: Ideally, tenants should sign each photograph or each page the photographs are on. We ensure tenants sign to say they have received the written inventory and supporting video evidence, and they then have 7 days to raise any objections or it is deemed to be accepted. Each of our recordings is time and date stamped and we keep backup copies.
Reason 4: Items claimed for were not recorded on the original inventory. Solution: Ensure that properly trained clerks conduct the inventories and that they follow a systematic process so all items are covered. Ideally, they should use a video camera as a half hour high definition video at 25 frames a second is the equivalent of 37,500 still images.
Reason 5: The inventory just lists items with no schedule of condition. Solution: It is absolutely essential that all inventories should clearly state the condition of each item. We also use a simple numerical grading system.
Reason 6: The wording in the inventory was too vague, e.g. scuffs to the wall, with no supporting visual evidence or poor inaccurate descriptions. Solution: All inventory personnel should be trained to record concisely. If you use high definition video evidence, as we do, it will provide all the visual supporting evidence you need.
Reason 7: Some clerks, especially those who do not use photos or video, write very long detailed descriptions in their inventories with lots of small print. These have been held to impose an unfair burden on the tenant. Solution: We suggest that the written documents are kept concise so that the tenant can easily read and understand it, and the supporting evidence is provided by video or at least a large number of good quality photographs.
Reason 8: Different systems are used for check-in and check-out making an accurate comparison difficult. Solution: It is important that the same methods of recording are used for the original inventory and the check-out.
Reason 9: No supporting evidence is provided, or supporting evidence doesn’t clearly show the condition of the item before and after the tenancy. Whilst having photographs is better than not having them, it is impossible to take photographs of everything that might be damaged during the tenancy. Solution: HD video provides the best evidence possible as it offers comprehensive coverage, shows the overall condition of the property and its contents in the context of their surroundings.
Reason 10: Condition reports that hinge on unusual or unintelligible abbreviations that will probably not be recognised by the tenant will be deemed to be unfair. Solution: Use a trained audio typist to provide inventory and schedule of condition reports in plain English and the correct spelling.