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from "UK Landlord" magazine, May 2007

The importance of inventories cannot be underestimated now that the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme is in force.

Inventories will be critical in establishing the facts behind any landlord and tenant dispute; without clear proof of loss or damage, landlords risk facing a situation where all the deposit money will be returned to the tenant by the Independent Case Examiner.

and from the Residential Landlords Association:-

Is an Inventory Compulsory?

Tenancy deposit protection does not make inventories compulsory.  However, in practice, they are essential.  Not only will you need an inventory in the sense of a list of items included in the tenancy (e.g. beds, curtains etc) but the inventory will have to record any damage/the condition of each item. Any existing defects at the beginning of the tenancy will need to be set out. 

If your deposit is intended to cover damage to the property itself you will also need a condition schedule.  Again, this will need to record any damage which exists when the tenancy starts. 

If an item of furniture is new or if the property has been recently internally decorated this will need to be recorded in your conditions schedule.  You will need to take a full photographic record (e.g. with a digital camera or camcorder).

When and How to take an Inventory

You will need to take an inventory/condition schedule both at the start of the tenancy and when the tenancy ends.  You will need to make sure that at the beginning of the tenancy the tenant(s) signs off the inventory/condition schedule. 

You must make sure that you check it carefully before they sign.  Any photographs should be dated.  For example you can always hold up a newspaper showing the date when you take one of the photographs.

It may not always be possible to get the tenant to check out the inventory/condition schedule at the end of the tenancy but try to do so wherever possible.

Where available consider employing an inventory clerk to prepare these inventories/condition schedule.

What happens when you don't have an Inventory?

There have been a number of decisions by adjudicators under existing voluntary schemes which show that unless you follow these rules there is little or not chance of you recovering anything out of the deposit for damage.  In any case, you must remember that a deposit will not cover fair wear and tear. 

Likewise, decisions by District Judge in County Court small claims have also shown that unless you follow these procedures exactly, it is unlikely that you will be awarded any part of the deposit to make good any damage. 

It is common for a tenant to claim that the damage already existed when the tenancy started.  Unless you have proof of the state of the furniture/property at the beginning in the form of a properly prepared and agreed inventory/condition schedule you are unlikely to succeed.

What other evidence will the landlord need?

If, following the end of the tenancy you have to make good any damage you will need to have proper receipts/estimates/invoices.  You should obtain at least two estimates for the cost of making good the damage; otherwise the tenant can challenge the cost. 

If you want to claim the cost of damage to an item of furniture,  you should retain proof of purchase to show the cost at the time of purchase.

You must make sure that you carefully preserve all of these records.  The tip is to keep a proper tenancy file containing all of this information.

Please contact Northern Inventory Services via our contact page

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