With over 23,500 deposits 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 a proper professional (and independent) inventory.   An inventory is a record not only a property and its contents but also (crucially) their condition at a specific point in time (i.e. at the date the tenancy starts).

Many inventories fail to convince the adjudicators because they fall far short of the evidential standards required.  The fact that over 90% of cases are found against landlords indicates that if you do not supply the tenant with a proper professional inventory you may as well not bother at all.

These are the most common reasons inventories fail – with tips on how you can ensure your inventories are up to scratch.

Problem 1: The landlord used an old inventory that didn’t reflect the condition of the property’s contents accurately. This is a common problem when agents or landlords try and cut costs by using an old version rather than pay for a new inventory.  

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 an “inventory remake” but this is undermining the credibility and evidential strength of the inventory. Not recommended.

Problem 2: The inventory was dated significantly before the start the tenancy (and therefore the property could have changed condition in the meantime).

Solution: Ensure that the inventory is scheduled to be conducted as shortly as possible before tenant moving in date.

Problem 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. At TVIA we ensure tenants sign to say they have received the written inventory and supporting DVD and they then have 7 days to raise any objections or it is deemed accepted. Each of our recordings is time and date stamped and we (an independent 3rd party) keep a copy of the recording for 12 months

Problem 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 def video at 25 frames a second is the equivalent of 37,500 still images.

Problem 5: The inventory just lists items with no schedule of condition. 

Solution : All inventories should clearly state the condition of each item. It is absolutely essential.  At TVIA we also use a simple numerical grading system.

Problem 6 : Wording in the inventory was too vague (e.g. scuffs to wall) with no supporting visual evidence or poor inaccurate descriptions.

Solution: All inventory personnel should be trained to record concisely. If you use hi-def video evidence, as we do, it will provide all the visual supporting evidence you need.

Problem 7: Some clerks (especially those that 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 tenant can easily read and understand and the supporting evidence is provided by video or at least a large number of good quality photographs.

Problem 8: Different systems used for check-in and check-out making an accurate comparison too difficult.

Solution: It is important that the same methods of recording are used for the original inventory and the check out.

Problem 9 : No supporting evidence is provided or supporting evidence doesnt 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 (and also the part of the item that might be damaged ).

Solution: Hi-def video provides the best evidence possible as it offers comprehensive coverage, shows the overall condition of the property and its contents and a typical video is the equivalent of over 37,500 still photos.

Problem 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 plain English and also use trained audio typists to type up the inventory so that they can ensure everything

Thanks to the Video Inventory Agency for providing this informative article.