A tenant's guide to inventories
Inventories are a significant part of your tenancy. They hold the key to you getting your full deposit back or only some of it when you move out, and they can help to prevent disputes with your landlord or letting agent.
With this in mind, having a full understanding of what inventories are and how they work is important to you as a tenant. If you want to learn more, follow our guide to the inventory process to find out why it’s so important and what this document means for you as a tenant.
What is an inventory?
The inventory is an in-depth report on the rental property and its contents. Inventories are created for all types of rental property, from furnished and part-furnished through to unfurnished accommodation, and they list the furniture, fixtures and fittings in every room, along with a description of their condition.
They’re often created by independent, third-party inventory clerks who walk through the property and compile the report. In some cases, you may find that your landlord or letting agent has carried out the relevant checks.
While the format may differ slightly from one inventory to the next, the fundamental information included will be the same, whatever type of property you’re renting. For example, while one inventory may go into detail about the exact condition of the sofa, carpet and walls and include photographs, another may just use a simple traffic lights system to indicate the state everything is in.
Why is an inventory important?
The inventory is important because it’s an account of what everything looked like when you moved in. By being thorough before you sign the inventory, you are putting yourself in a good position when your tenancy comes to an end.
If everything is detailed for everyone to see, you’re less likely to find yourself in a dispute with your landlord about the condition of the property and you’re more likely to get your full deposit back.
Without the inventory, you have no proof of the property’s condition when your tenancy began and could be challenged about damage you haven't caused or asked to pay for repairs that had nothing to do with you. You could find that you lose some, or even all, of your deposit because you have to foot the bill for something that wasn’t anything to do with you or your tenancy.
If there is a detailed inventory, or if there is no inventory at all, the adjudicator whose job it is to deal with any disputes is highly likely to reject a landlord's claim. Therefore, while it’s not a legal requirement for a landlord to provide an inventory of their rental property, it’s in both their and your best interests to supply this detailed look at its condition.
What part of the inventory are tenants responsible for?
If it’s possible, try to attend the initial inventory check by the clerk, landlord or letting agent. This is a great opportunity for you to see first-hand what is being reported and note any pre-existing damage before it’s written down in the document.
Even if you can’t make the inventory check, as the tenant you have a key part to play in the inventory process. You will be given the report and asked to carefully check through it during your first few days in the property.
What to do with an inventory
When you are given the inventory report, take some time to walk through and examine every piece of furniture, wall, carpet and fixture in each room. Be as thorough as possible and, if you’d like to, take some pictures as you go along for your own reference. If you are taking pictures, try to make sure they’re clear and date-stamped.
What to look for
The inventory might already have a structure to it for you to follow, but if you’re unsure about where to begin when double-checking the information listed, here is a brief overview of some of the things to look out for as you move from room to room:
- Damage to walls and floors, including stains, scuffs, dents, holes.
- The reliability of the walls, floors and ceilings. Are there any broken floorboards or holes in the ceiling?
- Curtains and carpets: are there any stains, holes or marks?
- Mould and mildew marks: If you see any stains or tide marks indicating mould being wiped away, you are allowed to query whether the property has a mould and damp issue and request that your landlord addresses this.
- Windows and doors: Are there any chips? Is there damage to the sealant? Can you see any rot or mould?
- For furnished properties, what condition is the furniture in? Note things like rips in the fabric of the sofa and scratches on the coffee table.
- Cupboards, doors and wardrobes: check for warped, sticking doors and broken hinges.
- What do the electrical and gas appliances look like? Are they regularly tested? Are the sockets ok?
- Run the taps to check for pressure, as well as the quality of the water.
- Are there any cracks in the sink or chips in the tiles?
- Head outside and check the roof and gutters. Any missing slates or roof tiles? Do the gutters need cleaning?
- What do the external walls look like? Any cracks?
This is just a starting point for your own inventory checks, and you may find that this process takes some time. You don’t know the property that well yet and even the smallest flats take time to thoroughly check through, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Should you spot anything that you think might need repairing soon, this is your chance to bring it up with your landlord.
Things don't add up
You may find that the descriptions don’t match up or that there’s a mark on the wall that’s been missed. Whether you can’t see the stain the report is referencing, or you see an additional scuff on the kitchen table, feel free to update the inventory if you think something isn’t quite right – you are within your rights to make amendments.
Also, if any items have been missed off the list, be sure to add them in alongside a description of their condition. For example, if a side table hasn’t been included, this needs to be in the report to avoid there being inconsistency when you move out.
Only sign the inventory when you’re happy with the descriptions of the property contained within the inventory report.
For additional peace of mind and to be absolutely certain that you’re covered, it’s worth asking your landlord to acknowledge the faults you find with the inventory. To do this, ask them to countersign anything you’ve spotted that might have been missed. Providing photographs at this stage will help your case and will also protect you later on when you move out.
In addition, if they agree to make any repairs or updates to the property, get it in writing from them. This should protect you if these repairs don’t take place and damage occurs as a result.
What if there is no inventory?
Most landlords will provide some form of inventory, however if they don’t offer one at the start of your tenancy, you’re allowed to make your own version. With your copy, you can go into detail and take photos to document how things look before you move in.
You can then invite your landlord to check it through and sign it in order to confirm that it accurately describes how the property looks. If they don’t want to sign it, you are allowed to ask an independent witness to sign it.
While you won’t be expected to check and sign any inventories while you live in the property, your landlord or letting agent will book in some mid-tenancy inspections. These are designed to make sure everything is being well maintained. The condition of the property and its contents are assessed and any notes to make repairs are made.
These inspections are a great opportunity for you to address any issues, such as any redecorating or DIY that’s needed. Plus, your landlord may have follow-up actions for you to carry out, which you should be given in writing.
This is all useful for when you come to move out of the property as these inspections and the resulting repairs can crop up. Keep hold of any correspondence with your landlord about the inspections and repairs. Whether these are texts, emails or letters, if they detail the steps that they want to take to address any issues or repairs, you can use this in the event of a dispute later on.
Moving out: the checkout inventory
When you decide to move out, another formal inventory is drawn up. This checkout report tends to be a lot more straightforward than the first one as it’s an update to the one that was drawn up when you moved in.
The inventory-creating process is repeated, meaning that the inventory clerk, landlord or letting agent notes the condition of the property. They then draw up the final report. Again, if you can be there for this inventory, it can be easier to resolve any issues then and there.
From there, the first inventory is compared with the new checkout inventory to see if there is any cause for your landlord to make deductions for damage. It’s worth taking pictures again before you move out to compare with the ones from when you moved in.
If you spent some time carefully checking through the first inventory and you’ve kept on top of communication with your landlord or letting agency about repairs and updates throughout your tenancy, it’s unlikely that there will be any unwanted surprises.
Wear and tear
During this check, your landlord must account for general wear and tear. You won’t be able to leave the property exactly as you found it because carpets get worn and tiny scuffs and scrapes are to be expected. You can’t be charged for anything that can be put down to everyday use, and your landlord or letting agent can’t take some of your deposit for things that fall into this category.
What if they find something wrong?
If some damage is flagged in the checkout report that isn’t being put down to wear and tear and deductions are being made from your deposit to cover the costs, you’ll need to decide if you agree with this decision or you want to contest it.
Should you think something isn’t quite right, you’ll need to gather together your copy of the initial inventory as well as this new one, plus your photographs, receipts from any repair work and anything else that could be used as proof. Next, go through the landlord’s report and respond to each claim, referring back to the inventories and other details as you go.
Your landlord should drop their claim if they see you have proof that you haven’t damaged the property in any way. If defending yourself in this way doesn’t work, contact the deposit protection scheme that holds your deposit and they should be able to help you resolve the issue.
In this case, an adjudicator will look through everything and take both sides into account. Keeping on top of everything during your tenancy will help things to go in your favour if you reach this stage.
Whether you’re unsure of something that’s been noted in the initial inventory or you have a query about repair work that was carried out during your time in the property, you are well within your rights to question your landlord or letting agent. You’re better off taking the time to understand the property you’re renting early on in case something goes wrong further down the line.
Being prepared and understanding the significance of the inventory process is one of the easiest ways to ensure you get your money back when you decide to move on.