The tenant-landlord relationship can be precarious at the best of times and as a tenant, you can sometimes feel at a disadvantage. What is a home for you, for the landlord it is either a business asset or a family home rented out for a variety of factors, so each party will have an emotional attachment? And this is not a criticism of the reasons behind why a landlord offers their property for let, but to showcase that renting out of a property is not a straightforward business transaction.
If the relationship isn’t equally balanced, it’s understandable to feel disadvantaged, but the key to a successful tenancy is to work with the landlord (and letting agent) so that you each get what you need from the relationship.
From the landlord’s standpoint; legislative changes have shifted the balance towards a more tenant centric model that has, at its core, the right intentions, however, the results of the Government’s policy on protecting tenants rights have, for many landlords, meant that the relationship is now less than equal.
The changes have led to the passing of the Tenant Fee Act, tighter restrictions around safety in the home with Fitness For Human Habitation and the most recent of changes; compulsory EICR reports as of 1st April 2021.
But this isn’t all one-sided; as the tenant, you have to jump through a number of often difficult hoops to both prove that you can afford the rental property as well as provide proof of your right to rent. You have to put down what is often a large sum of money by way of deposit which effectively indemnifies the landlord should you fail to pay the rent, damage the property or fail to ‘act in a tenant like manner’ when it comes to the upkeep of the property. By the time the contract is signed, you’re probably just glad to have secured somewhere to call home!
So you can be forgiven, then, for treating every part of this process as just one big hurdle after another, with very little by way of security for you as the tenant when it comes to the deposit as, under the Tenant Fee Act, landlords cannot charge for the report so effectively you are handing over all control to the landlord.
But that doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to the inventory and or check out report.
Many assume that the property inspection is only for the benefit of the landlord that produces a rather dull bureaucratic itemisation of the property’s contents that is biased in favour of the landlord, isn’t it?
Actually, no…..in fact it’s far from that!
As the tenant; you might feel that this is simply a matter for the landlord, and any landlord wishing to protect his or her investment will certainly attach a lot of importance to the inventory. But it is just as important to you as the tenant and to not have such a report in place can prove to be an expensive mistake.
This is your deposit, not the landlord so how can YOU protect it?
Let’s start with some background as to what inventories are and, more importantly, do.
An inventory is carried out just before or on the day the tenancy starts and should detail the property, any outbuildings and garages including gardens and any areas that as the tenant you will be responsible for throughout the tenancy.
This includes every room, the type and condition of the decoration, flooring, fixtures and fittings plus any furniture present. Effectively; anything you can see at the property should be detailed, commented on and a factual description of the condition captured along with enough pictures or video to evidence the report.
The process has been much improved with advancements in technology meaning reports are captured on an app (in most cases) with pictures automatically dated and timed to ensure that the evidence can stand up to scrutiny both in a deposit dispute and or (if needed) a court of law.
By commissioning an inventory report, the landlord is seeking to protect the property by having an accurate record of the conditions and contents as well as recording the types and function of smoke alarms and also utility meters.
This is a great way, from your point of view as the tenant, to protect your deposit as all good inventory reports should have a mechanism in place so that you can also make comments, upload pictures and sign the report so that you too have a record.
Inventories are intended, as with all legal documents, to provide certainty. To achieve this, they must be factually transparent and mutually agreed. For that reason, it makes sense to commission a third party, impartial and experienced property report supplier.
So let’s look at the key reasons and why it’s in your interest as the tenant to be protected by a thorough, accurate and impartial inventory, check-in and check-out reports
1. The inventory provides you, the tenant, with very clear information and guidance as to the condition and condition of the property that you will be responsible for during the tenancy
2. An inventory provides you with the right to highlight any issues not recorded or areas that need attention including maintenance and or repair before or as you move in.
3. A professionally compiled inventory will make it much easier to distinguish between damage and the reasonable wear and tear expected and legally allowed for when renting a property.
4. If a dispute arises between yourself as the tenant and the landlord the evidence needed by the deposit scheme adjudicator would need to include the inventory, check-in, any interim inspections and the check out otherwise your defence against the landlord claim could fail.
Ultimately, it’s about your deposit, your money.
The expectation of all tenants should be that after handing over the deposit to the landlord at the start of the tenancy, that you should get it back in full at the end if there are no damages, cleaning issues or rent arrears levied against the deposit.
But how do you prove you left the property in the same (or not better condition) than when you received the keys and moved in? The same is true for the landlord, of course – the cost of any unreasonable loss or damage is clearly the responsibility of the tenant, but there is a need to be able to prove this material change and so there is a need to rely on these documents to ensure your responsibility is not unjustly extended.
Along with the tenancy agreement and your rent receipts, the inventory report is the third most important document in the entire rental relationship so why entrust the landlord with your deposits safeguarding?
Digital inventories conducted by an experienced and reputable inventory clerk is one of the surest means of guaranteeing a report that is impartial, accurate, detailed and referenced and therefore more likely to hold up to scrutiny in a dispute.