And how to get one
Frequently the biggest problems in the life of a tenancy come at the end. When the tenant is anxious to get his deposit back but the landlord wants to make a claim because of the condition of the property.
Usually, these are issues resolved, occasionally they are not and have to go to adjudication. But it would be best if they could be avoided altogether. How can this be achieved?
Your best option is to ensure that there is ALWAYS a properly drafted and agreed inventory and schedule of condition.
This is because if a landlord is to succeed at adjudication he needs to be able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the tenant is liable for the items claimed.
Its no good just saying ‘the property was left in a terrible condition so I need all the deposit to put it right’. You have to say specifically what you are claiming for. And be able to prove:
- That the item was in a worse condition at the end of the tenancy than it was at the start
- That this was down to the tenant, and
- That the sum you are claiming in compensation is reasonable.
So to prove this you need to have:
- An inventory or schedule of condition which sets out clearly that whatever-it-is was in good condition at the start of the tenancy
- A check-out report which shows that it was damaged or in a worse condition at the end of the tenancy, and
- Some evidence regarding the sum claimed – such as an invoice
Here are some tips:
- Ideally, you should get the initial inventory done by a specialist company. It is a very time-consuming business doing it yourself, plus adjudicators may consider (if your inventory is not countersigned by the tenants as being correct) that you are biased.
- However even if you use an inventory company, you may want to attend their inspection, just to make sure that they cover everything you want covered.
- Clear photographs are a good idea but make sure they have something to show scale and where they were taken (a table leg on its own could be anywhere). If they are taken by an inventory clerk and are part of his report that will suffice. Otherwise get the tenants to sign and date them on the back.
- The inventory needs to cover condition AND cleanliness. Fair wear and tear applies to condition but not cleanliness. If the landlord can show the property is less clean at checkout than it was at checkin, he will be able to charge for professional cleaning.
- You need evidence to prove that the sum claimed is reasonable. A receipt will be important but you will also need to deal with ‘betterment’. If an old item is to be replaced by a new one, there needs to be a deduction to reflect this. (We have a special calculator on the site for Landlord Law members which can work this out for you).
How Landlord Law can help
We have a long and detailed article which looks at creating inventories and what you need to do – which goes into a lot more details than this article. There are also tips on instructing inventory clerks if you decide to do this (which is what we recommend).
We have a form you can use but you may want to use this as a basis for preparing your own.
I would urge you to seriously consider using an inventory clerk rather than doing it yourself.
If you are using Landlord Law instead of instructing a letting agent you will be saving yourself a lot of money – so you should be able to afford the cost of an inventory clerk. Doing your own inventories will usually be a false economy.
You will find our guidance and links to our form here.