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How to keep a property inventory as a landlord

by | Nov 29, 2022

Home $ Property Management for landlords $ The Importance of Tenant Management $ How to keep a property inventory as a landlord

Introduction

When keeping a property inventory, there are certain rules that landlords follow in order to avoid disputes in the future. A property inventory done right is one of the easiest ways you can make sure that the furniture and condition of your house is up to scratch and you don’t have to charge a tenant with dilapidations for missing furniture or damage to the property that wasn’t there when they moved in.

While it may seem simple to just record all of the features of a property and make sure they do not change too much throughout the duration of a tenancy there is a method for doing this that works best and the failure to do it correctly can certainly cause things to go wrong.

So read on carefully and follow what you must do in detail when conducting a property inventory.

A landlord conducting a property inventory

What is the point in a property inventory?

A property inventory is a record of all the contents of a property. This includes the equipment, appliances and also the condition of long term furniture like wardrobes or beds. There are a few important reasons for keeping a record in this way.

First and foremost, a property inventory makes sure there are no disputes between tenants and landlords as it makes sure the tenant takes care of the property and cannot leave the property with damages without the landlord being eligible for some kind of compensation.

Without a property inventory, it would be easy for a tenant to evade their responsibility for taking care of the property and blaming any damages on intimidating neighbours, previous tenants or damages caused to your fence by a tree falling on your property.

Because landlords have to keep a deposit in a government-backed, secure tenancy deposit scheme, it is harder to prove to these schemes that a deposit should be kept by the landlord. Therefore, landlords are starting to keep their tenancy deposits secure and also keep a property inventory, carefully noting everything down in a property so if something was to go wrong they can get their money back.

How should you check into a property inventory?

In order to start a property inventory, a surveyor and sometimes a property manager will visit the property as the tenant moves in and hand over the keys at the same time. During this process, a tenant will be able to document everything alongside the surveyor. This includes the state of the property, the hygiene of the bathroom and kitchen and the furniture in the property.

In addition, metre readings may be checked for gas and electricity so the tenant knows that the gas and electricity metres are working correctly and any utility bills will be accurately charged. The landlord will know that if it breaks it would have broken within the tenancy agreement of the new tenant.

Finally, all this documentation alongside photos and video evidence is given to the tenant and the surveyor, landlord or property manager keeps a copy too. 

How should you check out of a property inventory?

As when the tenant moved in, the surveyor should meet the tenant to exchange the keys. Following this, it is optional for the tenant to stay while the surveyor stays and conducts checks on any changes that have been made to the property. 

However, it is common for a surveyor to ask the tenants if they have damaged anything or if anything has broken as they may be honest straight away and prevent the surveyor or the person conducting the property inventory from discovering this themself anyway.

During this check, the surveyor will make a detailed report on the condition of the property, referring to the previous evidence when the tenant first moved in. This includes the photo and video evidence that was collected.

In this process a property manager, landlord or surveyor should also collect the information of the tenant’s new address or at the very least their contact information so they can follow up and contact the tenant if needed.

Tenants checking out of a property

What should a property inventory include?

There are three main points that should be recorded in a property inventory check. Without these, it may result in the landlord missing information about the property over time and not being able to conclusively determine if the property was in the same state as when the tenant left it or not.

The number of appliances and furniture pieces in a property

The number of appliances should be recorded first of all. While this may seem easy to make a mental note of, there are smaller appliances that may be hard to keep track of. This includes toasters, microwaves and kettles that are provided at the start of the tenancy.

If a landlord tries to keep the number of appliances mentally, it may result in tenants being able to steal equipment or break equipment and not tell the landlord. Some equipment will break anyway due to the general wear, tear and use of the property. However, gathering as much evidence as you can is the best thing you can do to see if this is the case or not.

Descriptions of the condition of the property

You can also write a brief description of every piece of equipment. This can include any defects or faults of the equipment, how old the equipment is, when the equipment was installed and how many tenants will be using the equipment.

This is even more important if there have been tenants in the property previously or the furniture is second hand. In this case, it is likely there will be defects in the equipment anyway so finding what part of the furniture has been damaged by the current tenant becomes even harder. 

Detailed descriptions of the conditions of the equipment and the general living space of the property are all things that will help with this problem.

Digital photos or videos

As you can imagine, the process of writing a description yourself in writing can be quite subjective. For example, one surveyor could describe the property as in “good condition” and another surveyor could describe it as in “average condition”. 

Photo and video evidence resolves this issue nicely as it becomes clear exactly what was meant and when using the description of the equipment combined with photo and video evidence, there is little ambiguity in what was recorded in the property inventory.

Does a property inventory protect the tenant and the landlord?

A property inventory certainly protects both the landlord and tenant because it protects the tenants’ deposit from being unfairly withheld. On the other hand, it protects the landlord’s property because not only can they hold a tenant accountable for any damages, but the tenant is also incentivised to take care of the property when they know everything is being recorded.

How much does it cost to do a property inventory report?

You may be able to outsource the process of creating a property inventory to outside surveyors who will deal with the changing over of tenants. This service may cost between £100 and £200 every time a tenant changes in a property.

Otherwise, the job of creating a property inventory may be given to the property manager who will take a commission of the rental income of the property anyway (usually around 10%).

A painting of a house with a property inventory

Common mistakes when doing a property inventory

There are a few things that are common for landlords to trip up on when conducting a property inventory. These common mistakes could have implications in the future as a tenant moves out and you try to compare a property so it is vital these mistakes are avoided. 

The report is too basic

If the report of a property is too basic, this can mean the report is vague and open for interpretation making it easy for a tenant to argue one thing and a landlord to argue another. When there are missing items from a property or damages, concrete evidence will be best for returning a landlord’s property back to normal. 

To make sure your property inventory isn’t basic, take a look at this template provided by Stafford Council here that lays out an inventory clearly.

The report  is based on subjective opinion rather than pragmatic fact

A property inventory needs to be as binary as it can be, with little that is open to interpretation. Describing things like the number of appliances, the age of equipment, the names and locations of apparatus all can help reduce subjectivity.

Adding to this, subjective parts of the inventory check such as describing the condition should be backed up by more concrete evidence such as photos, video evidence or item certificates that came with the purchase of the equipment.

There are parts of the property missing

This is a silly mistake that should be avoided at all costs. It is vital the entirety of a property is recorded. Even the space that isn’t necessarily being used such as lofts or outhouses. Minor damages all cost money to repair so you need to be able to prove the damage isn’t your fault if you need to.

The landlord doesn’t provide a copy of the report to the tenant

While it is not a legal requirement for a landlord to have to provide a property inventory, it would be a wise idea as it prevents a tenant from being able to say that they weren’t aware they were responsible for certain features of the property later down the line.

There is no schedule of when the report is updated

Providing a schedule of when a property should be updated is a great way to get a tenant to keep a tenant accountable for taking care of the property. This can include visiting the property during a tenancy and not just waiting for the end of a fixed term. Especially during a longer tenancy where it is possible that a landlord doesn’t see the property for years.

If this is the case, a landlord should provide a landlord inspection notice which will give the tenant access to the property within 24 hours’ notice. However, a tenant can still refuse this from happening if there is nothing written in the tenancy agreement so you would have to plan ahead to ensure you can conduct the property inventory schedule you need.

A landlord making a property inventory schedule

When is a property inventory needed by a landlord?

A property inventory is never a legal requirement. Nonetheless, especially in properties where there is a lot of furniture and a lot is available to be damaged, a landlord may feel the need to include a property inventory as part of their tenant management process.

This isn’t a landlord’s only choice and is more of a safety measure. If a tenant is found to conduct serious damage to a property, a landlord can evict them under section 8 of the landlord and tenant act of 1954. Before doing this though, make sure you check how much notice a landlord should give a tenant to move out in the UK as it could be between two weeks to two months depending on the tenancy agreement.

Who has to be present when the inventory service is taking place?

A tenant doesn’t have to be present during an inventory check although it may be beneficial for them to be there as they’ll get to see how the report is taken and any issues with the property inventory can be dealt with there and then.

Is it possible for an inventory check to be done after a tenant has moved out?

Yes, there is no obligation for a tenant to be there although most of the time, a tenant will be there anyway. Especially when a tenant first gets checked in, as the landlord can use it as an opportunity to show them around the property at the same time

How long does an inventory survey take?

Depending on the size and scope of the property, a property inventory can take anywhere from half an hour to up to two hours. Also, taking a property inventory for the first time is the longest part of the process as when you are checking over the property for the second time, nothing needs to be noted down. 

The surveyor or landlord will just note whether they are satisfied with the condition the tenant left the property in.

How can a landlord Lofti support a landlord with a property inventory?

The Lofti app is perfect for communication with tenants. This means any issues that are noted in the property can be picked up straight away and sent to the landlord digitally. This prevents there from being any surprises when a landlord visits the property to check the property inventory for the second time.

On top of this, there is maintenance history and analytics so all historical issues and property costs can be reported in one place. Sign up below for free to check to find out how you can do this yourself.

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andreas gerazis

Andreas Gerazis

Experienced landlord

Andreas is a certified landlord with extensive knowledge about the UK property market as he has been actively investing for half a decade. Founder of the first three-in-one property management software, Lofti Proptech, Andreas has a brilliant understanding of the details surrounding what it takes to grow and run a thriving property portfolio.

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