Compiling an Inventory is a time intensive job that is often impacted because the property is either not ready, not clean or is undergoing last minute maintenance work.
This could result in the report being ‘out of date’ as soon as the clerk leaves the property!
So how can landlords minimise disruptions to their own schedules, avoid costly tenant fall throughs and ensure that the report accurately reflects and safeguards the property?
As every landlord will know, there are literally hundreds of legislative hoops, armfuls of required documents and forms to complete, many of which are utterly indispensable when setting up a tenancy.
The first document is the tenancy agreement (or AST), which contains all the terms by which the landlord and tenant agree to abide by.
Other key documents which the landlord is legally obliged to provide, include the Government’s ‘How to Rent‘ booklet, gas safety and electrical certificates, energy performance certificate (EPC) and details of the deposit protection scheme used to secure the tenants hard earned deposit.
The other document, vital for both landlord and tenant, is the schedule of condition, more commonly known as an inventory.
This is an immensely detailed, evidence-rich document that records the condition of the property, its fixtures, fittings, contents and most importantly, the condition of all that will form part of the tenants responsibilities when renting out the home and set the expectations for all parties.
The inventory report
Many think that a quick once over of the property is sufficient especially if it’s being let without furniture. Right?
Well, no actually.
Compiling a report on a rental property is very important but even more so when let with furnishings as how to you prove your case if things go wrong, go missing or are damaged?
Any landlord who allows a tenant to take possession under a tenancy without first conducting an inventory, is inviting trouble and confusion later down the line.
So it’s always recommended that landlords instruct an independent report to be carried out as an inventory professional is impartial and will not only list the items present, but also comment on the condition and take vital pictures or video should the items fail to make it to check out.
It is also a mistake to think that conducting an inventory is a simple matter of ticking a few boxes which can be done by just anyone.
Although landlords can and often do conduct their own reports, they are not always detailed or objective.
For a property inspection you can truly rely on, there is no substitute for the services of a professional, experienced inventory clerk using a detailed template that is focused on the facts, ensuring the report is both accurate and reliable.
Good, Satisfactory, Poor – it just doesn’t cut it!
When it comes to the kind of detail that anyone else might miss, inventory clerks have the precision and thoroughness of thought to spot, question and investigate the smallest issues that might eventually prove significant.
Using generalised and loose terms opens up the potential for argument or ‘wriggle room’ when it comes to dispute.
What is poor? How do you evidence it and is it enough to allow the adjudicator to make a decision or do you need to literally spell it out in the report?
Good and satisfactory are equally subjective as both landlords, tenants and agents involved in the tenancy will have a different viewpoint so detail is key to ensuring everyone ‘gets it’ when reading the report.
So how do you prepare for the inventory?
Depending on the size of the property, an inspection could be a brief affair or take several hours. Nobody wants it to take longer than absolutely necessary, but it needs to be clear, comprehensive and more importantly, backed by objective, factual evidence.
So there are several ways in which a landlord can prepare for a successful inventory and tenancy.
Carry on Cleaning!
Unless you’re renting out a newly built or freshly converted property, the first jobs are the simple ones which often require little effort and no professional skills.
Cleaning is essential, not just for the sake of the new tenant but because it is one fewer thing for the clerk to record and the tenant to complain about.
Landlords can, of course, do this themselves, but it makes sense to engage experienced cleaning contractors who will do a much better job in a considerably shorter time so you can concentrate on more practical and revenue generating tasks.
Although legally a landlord cannot require the tenant to carry out a professional clean at check out, they are expected to return the property in the same condition (less fair, wear and tear) so if it’s spotless or issue free at check in then tenants are expected to return it in an equally clean state.
Sort out maintenance issues
It’s well worth checking the property for any maintenance issues, such as tired decor, damaged plaster, cracked window panes or leaks.
The inventory clerk will be obliged to include them in the report, and should anything like this deteriorate, the potential for disputes over who is responsible increases and any consequent damage more difficult to apportion.
So it’s far better to fix everything before the tenancy begins.
Remove unsafe furniture and equipment
Landlords should also check both the condition of furniture and their resistance to fire.
Chairs, tables and beds don’t last forever, so it’s helpful in the longer term to let the property with furniture that is in a perfectly serviceable state, and get rid of anything substandard or, more importantly, unsafe that doesn’t conform to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988.
That last point about the safety of furnishings raises the important issue of compliance.
As a landlord you are under a lengthy series of legal obligations to ensure the safety and comfort of your tenant while they occupy your property.
Safety certificates & compliance
It is a legal requirement for landlords to commission reports on the safety of all gas appliances, including the pipework that supplies them.
These must be performed by an engineer registered with Gas Safe, and needs to be renewed every twelve months and a copy of this record provided to the tenant within 28 days of the check being completed.
New tenants just starting a tenancy should also be given a copy of the latest record.
If anything in the property fails the inspection, it must be repaired and tested again before the property can be let.
Similar safety checks are now compulsory for all electrical installations under the 2020 regulations, although they do allow an interval of up to 5 years between tests.
When preparing the property before an inspection it’s well worth checking each appliance to see when it was last tested so you can keep everything up to date.
After a successful test landlords receive an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) that should be supplied to the existing tenant within 28 days, a copy supplied to a new tenant before they occupy the property or when requested for a prospective tenant and finally, not only hold a copy for reference but provide it to the local authority within 7 days of any request.
As you can see, with safety compliance, there is a huge amount of admin that an inventory provider can help with by adding the certificates into the report and sharing directly with the tenant to provide proof of service.
Get ready for The Decent Homes Standard
Although this technical measure was introduced under the Blair government in an attempt to raise the minimum standard of housing conditions in the public sector such as council housing and housing association properties, it stands as a useful guide for private sector landlords as well.
The criteria includes stipulations of a reasonable state of repair, reasonably modern facilities and a reasonable degree of warmth.
Exactly what constitutes reasonable is not yet defined, but it’s largely a matter of common sense. This is a key subject of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) white paper out for consultation so make sure you keep an eye out for any changes as the government seeks to introduce a legally binding Decent Homes Standard (DHS) in the Private Rented Sector for the first time.
It expands on the principles of the Decent Homes Standard and is specific about issues such as damp, structural instability, ventilation, light, sanitation, hot and cold water supplies and even the suitability of the layout.
By risk assessing the property before it even enters the rental market will mean the property is safe, and then lessens any risks to the tenant or their visitors and reduces the likelihood of fines or imprisonment if the property fails to adhere to the standards set out by the government.
Again, most of this is obvious, and a capable inventory clerk will instantly pick up any areas of concern. They will be able to do their job more quickly, efficiently and accurately if the property is prepped and ready to let by, fixing what you can and ensuring easy access to all areas.
One last but important point for landlords to remember is to book your property report or inspection early!
Summer is nearly upon us and ‘student season’ is about to start meaning many inventory clerks and providers will already be booked up so start planning your reporting needs now.
Inventory clerks are in high demand as the rental sector continues to grow, so don’t leave things to the last minute.
Even if you only have a rough idea of when you expect to start a new tenancy, you need to be sure the check-in inventory can be completed before the tenant moves in.
- Plan your reporting needs early in the tenancy process
- Book the gas safety / electrical certificate and EPC to make sure the property is compliant
- Conduct a Fitness for Human Habitation risk assessment to avoid safety issues emerging during the tenancy
- Ensure that all maintenance is either completed before check in or scheduled
- Remove any safety hazards like non compliant furniture or electrical equipment
- Clean and tidy in good time for the report to be done
Avoid delaying the move in; book your next property report, interim property visit or inspection with Workstreams