The Inventory

An inventory is a binding legal document that provides an accurate written record of the condition and contents of a property at the beginning of a tenancy. It is only effective if it is accurate so, all defects and soiling must be noted. Some landlords do not realise that although descriptions can appear uncomplimentary, it is those descriptions that will allow them to prove whether a tenant caused damage or is liable for cleaning costs.

The following areas are normally included but more or less can be covered by arrangement. In every case, detailed comments are shown beside each description:

· Interior condition and decorative order, plus the fixtures and fittings including: doors, windows, drapes/blinds, ceilings, walls, carpets etc.

· Furniture and other contents, excluding items which the Inventory Clerk considers as expendable, such as magazines, living plants and other such minutiae.

· Gardens are described in layman's terms only. Garden statues, sheds, outbuildings etc will be described as deemed appropriate.

Lofts, cellars and similar areas are not normally covered.

To minimise costs, most inventory clerks include items which are of little real value in general terms i.e. "a quantity of ...". Examples of such items are books, tired bedding, used kitchen utensils/tableware etc.

Should a property contain anything considered an antique or of great value the Inventory Clerk must be notified and, ideally, valuations should be provided. It is recommended that a property is cleaned to a professional standard for the start of a tenancy paying particular care to carpets, curtains, upholstery, kitchens and bathrooms. If an item is soiled at the start of a tenancy a tenant can not be charged for cleaning it at the end. Landlords are also advised to retain all receipts.

Check-In

At a Check-in, an Inventory Clerk inspects the property and compares it to the inventory. Any variations seen are noted on the inventory.

If there have been significant changes to the property since the inventory was last used it is likely that a new inventory will be required. Landlords are advised to give fair notice to their clerk if this is the case to allow sufficient time for the job. If in doubt, consult your clerk.

In order to authenticate the inventory it must be signed by both the landlord and tenant or their representative. The 'master inventory' (that agreed at the Check-in) should be kept safe for use at the end of the tenancy or in the event of a dispute.

Check-Out

At the end of the tenancy a Check-out inspection is carried out. Notes are made on the 'master inventory' of any variations since the Check-in. An inventory clerk will then list the significant differences on a Check-out report.

Cleaning is often a major area of dispute. Landlords and tenants are advised to retain all receipts relating to cleaning and repairs carried out before or during a tenancy.

It should be noted that an Inventory Clerk cannot comment usefully on any alterations or additions made after the Check-in unless he/she was instructed to revisit the property in order to examine these changes at the time they were made.

The Check-out report is the basis for most claims made by landlords. A claim is most often viewed more favourably if compiled by an independent and unbiased party such as an Independent Inventory Clerk, particularly in a Court of Law.