The Physiologist William Rushton once said of a lecture given by a colleague: ‘the goal of this presentation is to impress, rather than inform’.
We’ve probably all been in situations where the substance of what we were being shown or told seemed to take second place to the style and flair with which it was expressed. It’s a pitfall anyone can fall into, especially today, when software and technology have made it so easy to create dazzling PowerPoint shows, skilfully edited films on our phones and even deep fake videos.
It’s easy to be distracted by the style and ignore the content so should your report protect or just look good?
What does a property inspection report do?
The first myth to clear up is that an inventory report has (so far) never been made mandatory by law.
Although any deposit a landlord receives from a tenant is required to be put into a government deposit protection scheme and the landlord may claim against the deposit for any loss or damage caused by the tenant, the form of establishing liability is up to the parties to decide.
The strongest protection – for both parties – is a series of property reports.
An inventory should be conducted at the beginning of the tenancy, then a check in when keys are handed over and meter readings are taken with further property visits, inspections or reviews completed every 3, 6 or 12 months and the final report, the check out, at the end of the tenancy.
Reports that are produced should be agreed by both parties, as evidenced by their signatures, so that there is no quarrel about who did or did not cause damage, breakage or loss. In practice, some disputes might still be pursued through the court of law, but a thorough inventory and check out report ought to be decisive.
What should a property inspection or report contain?
The short answer is: Everything.
That means structural features including floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, windows and doors. It should include cosmetic and functional items such as wall coverings, lighting, taps, paintwork, carpets, rugs, tiles, and finishes.
Utilities demand particular attention not just because of the need to bill the right person for their use but also to help with identifying faulty gas, electricity and water supplies that can pose a serious health and safety risk. That said thought; these should be inspected and certified (first and foremost) by qualified engineers and assessors – you can find out more with our strategic partner – Safe2 – The Leading Provider of Property Safety Certificates
Large furniture and appliances – sofas, armchairs, beds, tables, chairs, washing machines, cookers and boilers – should be carefully inspected, but smaller items too must not be overlooked. A kettle, cutlery or crockery are as equally important to note as are the larger components of a rental property.
Neither the landlord nor the inventory clerk can expect to find everything in perfect condition, since this is a working home where equipment is used every day. A certain amount of deterioration is inevitable.
A vital skill for the clerk is to be able to distinguish between fair wear and tear and careless or wilful misuse: slight fraying of a carpet is natural, while large red wine stains probably make the tenant culpable.
In even the smallest homes there is sufficient material to fill many pages. In the average rented property it could run to dozens.
The clerk will proceed methodically, area by area, room by room, item by item, making general observations along the way.
This will obviously generate a considerable amount of data, but by using the Inventory Base property inspection app and software, the clerk is able to input the information of each finding directly into the database from which the report can be generated.
It cuts out the necessity for the transcription of notes and allows the clerk to spend time on what is important: the detail.
How should an inventory report look?
Once all the information has been gathered and any caveats and exceptions noted, the Inventory Base system enables the virtually instant conversion of the data into the report which can be sent directly to the landlord or letting agents from the property.
It is essential that the format of the report makes its contents accessible, readable and comprehensible. Lengthy screeds describing the condition of the décor or the appearance of damp in the bathroom should be avoided.
This is not story-telling, so it needs to be sharply focussed, clear and concise giving the readers all the information they need in an easy-to understand, unambiguous form. However, the other extreme is to lean too heavily on endless bullet point lists. Over dozens of pages, these can become as unreadable as dense prose.
An experienced inventory clerk will understand the necessity of striking a balance between narrative and notes.
But there is one further danger: too much design
Digital technology has given us many wonderful capabilities, but your report is most definitely not there to deliver a visual wow factor that overshadows the report content.
Too many graphics, colours and formats won’t add anything, it will just obscure the content. Photographs and even brief videos can be very helpful in many cases, but keep the use of these to a sensible level. Every photograph should have a purpose.
Aim to impress not with your off-the-wall presentation but with the thoroughness and professionalism of your work. Let the detail showcase your efforts, experience and of course, the evidence.
The whole point of an inventory report and all subsequent reports is to protect.
Protect the deposit, protect the landlord, protect the tenant whose deposit it actually is and will always belong to and to ensure that the valuable asset, the property, is equally protected.
If the report fails to do this then your service delivery is failing and therefore so is your business so it’s vital that the information contained within the inventory report, the interim inspections or property visits and the checkout reports are all equally clear, concise, comprehensive and above all else, factual.
The client is the decider when it comes to commissioning your service
Ultimately what your client is paying for is the kind of intricately detailed inspection of their property that they feel only a professional can perform. They want the results presented smartly, clearly and unequivocally.
The report must be exhaustive, not exhausting and going to town on tricks and effects won’t achieve this.
By all means allow yourself a certain amount of branding but always remember this is a formal document that may at some stage come to be relied upon in legal proceedings.
At Inventory Base we appreciate the dangers. That’s why we design our inventory property management software to work seamlessly with function and prioritise this over form.
We strive to make the collection of data, its compilation into a report and the presentation of that report easy, clear, exhaustive and informative.
The fact that we create eye-catching reports and bespoke formats that also look great is the added bonus!.