Woman looking at property

A property inventory is a detailed document that records the condition of a property and its contents at the start and end of a tenancy. It includes a Schedule of Condition/Check-In Report, evaluating everything from décor to structural elements like floors and ceilings as well as meter readings and the location of important things such as the water stop cock and meters.

This document helps landlords and tenants keep track of any changes during the tenancy and resolve disputes efficiently. Tenants have the right to be present during inventory checks to ensure accuracy. Usually, an independent inventory clerk or letting agent conducts the inventory, but some experienced landlords and letting agents do it themselves but it is generally considered better if the person providing the inventory is unconnected to the property, agent or landlord to ensure impartiality.

Why are Property Inventories Important?

Before a new tenant moves in, a property inventory should be done to protect both the landlord and the tenant from deposit disputes at the end of the tenancy.

When the tenancy ends and a checkout inspection is performed, the property’s current condition will be compared with the inventory records. Wear and tear is of course expected, carpets will be walked on, kitchen appliances used. However, sometimes there is damage or neglect that may mean the landlord wants to retian some or all of  the deposit. If disputes arise, both the landlord and tenant need evidence to support their claims, found in the inventory and check-in report. Without this, making a successful claim would be very challenging.

What is a Check-In and Check-Out Report?

A check-in report documents the condition of everything in the property when the tenant moves in. It’s also known as the schedule of condition and accompanies the inventory report. Ideally, the check-in should be carried out on the day tenants move in, and it’s beneficial for them to be present.

A checkout report is a detailed assessment of the property’s condition at the end of a tenancy. It compares the property’s condition against the initial inventory report and any interim inspections. The checkout report should be conducted when the tenant leaves the property with all their belongings. It lists any recommended actions, usually assigning responsibilities to either the landlord or tenant, facilitating a quicker end of tenancy and return of the deposit, in full or with agreed deductions.

Does the Inventory Report Need to Be Signed?

While it’s not mandatory to sign the reports, its recommended  to avoid potential disputes. Both landlords and tenants should sign the inventory document to confirm it accurately reflects the property’s condition. This is also a good opportunity to ensure the document contains correct names, dates, and addresses, as even minor errors could cause problems in case of a dispute. An electronic proof of delivery and signature should be sufficient – the inventory could be dozens of pages and include up to a hundred photographs so printing it could be expensive!

Does the Tenant Have to Be Present for Check-In or Check-Out?

Tenants are not required to be present during inspections, but it is recommended. Being present allows tenants to clarify any doubts or concerns about the inspection and ensure everything is agreed upon and documented correctly. Tenants can also voice any issues or complaints about the property during the inspection, and the inspector can guide how to resolve them. Therefore, it’s in the tenant’s best interest to be present to ensure all parties are on the same page and to facilitate a smooth inspection process.

What if an Inventory Report Wasn’t Provided?

Without an inventory, check-in, or check-out report, it can be difficult for landlords to prove the condition of the property at the beginning of a tenancy. This could lead to disputes over issues like cleanliness, and complicate deposit claims at a later date.

In disputes without an inventory or check-in/check-out, adjudicators will consider any evidence provided, such as a cleaning invoice with a date and cost. However, reaching an agreement is much harder if the parties do not agree – it cannot be proved that the property was clean when the tenancy began.

If there’s a dispute over the deposit return, having an inventory/check-in report increases the likelihood of a successful claim.