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The importance of the check-in inventory
One of the best ways to minimise the risk of disputes with tenants over the return of deposits at the end of the tenancy is to compile a comprehensive and clear inventory at the start of every tenancy.
It is best practice for a detailed inventory to be carried out at the start of the tenancy. If tenants are aware that the state and contents of the property has been itemised, they are more likely to ensure that the property is left in the same condition in which it was originally let. Inventories are particularly important now that tenancy deposit schemes are in place across the UK as they form critical evidence in cases of disputes.
At check-in, the inventory should detail the current state of the property, including descriptions, age and condition of the fixtures, fittings and furnishing. This helps landlords and letting agents compare the state of the property at check-in and at check-out. Make sure the inventory is written in clear language, and defines the terms used to report the condition or cleanliness of items in the property. It must be clear enough for a third party to understand without them being present.
If an inventory is not carried out, or if it was insufficiently detailed, then it may not be clear how the property should be left before departure, which could lead to a deposit dispute. Dealing with a deposit dispute can be stressful and costly for those involved so it’s always preferable to avoid this. According to data published by my|deposits earlier this year in relation to England and Wales, currently only 1% of tenancies require formal dispute resolution, while in 60% of tenancies the landlords and agents return the deposit in full and in 39% a deduction is negotiated with tenants.
Make sure that your tenancy agreement deals with specific topics such as who takes responsibility for the garden and its upkeep, and the levels of cleaning required at check out.
The NLA recommends that landlords or agents conduct a mid-term and a pre-check out inspection which can also help resolve any issues and avoid a dispute.
Landlords and agents can enlist a reputable inventory company prepare the inventory or they may choose to undertake the inventory themselves. Nowadays inventories often include photographs, digitally date stamped or embedded into the printed inventory. Some landlords also prepare video inventories, with commentaries and close ups of fixtures, fittings and furniture.
Preparing for check-in
The my|deposits Group has helpfully published an inventory guide which includes a number of useful tips for landlords and agents preparing for check-in. The guide recommends that landlords pay special attention to the following key areas at the start of a tenancy:
Make sure you note down the state of the structural integrity of the beds, such as the bedframe and supports as well as both sides of the mattresses.Do all drawers work and are the insides of all drawers and wardrobes clean?Check to see if any of the property’s furniture is already damaged, stained, torn or chipped.
Doors and walls
Check doors open, close and, where necessary, lock properly.Deal with any signs of mould or damp on the walls.Note the condition of skirting boards and door frames.Look out for any marks, stains or damage to shelves, surfaces, ceiling, painted areas or wallpaper.
Look for any stains on carpets and any rucked areas or rips to the flooring or carpets.Check for holes and stains in lino or laminate floors and look for chips or signs of stained grout on tiled floors.
Check all windows open and close properly and are damage free. Note any damage or staining to curtains, rails and blinds.Deal with any signs of condensation, damp or mould.
Check the state of the cupboards and worktops, make sure all white goods work, are clean and clear of mould or damage.Make sure the oven, grill and hobs are clean and in full working order.
Make sure the taps work and sinks and bathtub drain properly.Check the shower works, the doors, showerhead and curtains are fitted properly and are clean.Ensure the toilet is clean, in good working order and flushes properly.Note any stains or damage to the toilet, sink, bathtub, any mirrors or tiles.Deal with any areas with mould.
Make sure that drives, gardens and paths are presentable, with no rubbish or unwanted items and that they are damage free.Check that fences and garden walls are not broken or damaged.Inspect any garages or sheds for damage and for clutter that may have to be removed.Check that any side gates are secure.
Make sure that all essentials are in working order, that all the lights work, bulbs are in place, fittings are secure, and plug sockets are fully functioning.Also check that the boiler has been checked by a professional and the radiators are functioning.Tenants will need to know the location of all meters and how to take accurate readings to pay for energy and water consumption.