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  • Why an inventory, why an inventory clerk?

When letting out a property, the landlord expects that at the end of the lease the property will be returned in more or less as good a condition as when the lease started. In order that this is so, an inventory should be drawn up at the start of the lease. Only if is this done can the landlord prove if damage has been caused to the property, or if it needs cleaning because of the tenant.. The inventory should cover all aspects of the inside of a property (and normally outside too, unless the landlord is looking after the gardens or arranging for someone to do so). Each room needs to be covered in detail:

  • What are the windows like(dirty or clean, panes broken, sill marked. Are curtains present and if so, are they clean, dirty or damaged: have they got tiebacks, or pelmets, if they are on a rail, does the rail have finials)
  • What is the condition of the woodwork? Are there any marks on the doors or skirtings? What handles, locks and bolts do the doors have? Are there any missing or not working?
  • What lights are in the room? Do they work, do they have shades?
  • What condition are the walls in? This is the second most contentious area in a normal room. Are there screws, hooks, screw holes, scuffs, tears in wallpaper or damp marks? How many? Where?
  • What about the ceiling? Is it stained from water leaks or dusty?
  • Most problematical of all for an ordinary room - what condition are the carpets or flooring in? Are there any marks, stains or burns? Where? Is the carpet clean? If the flooring is vinyl, it is especially prone to stiletto heel damage, nicks, stains and burns.
  • What about loose wires (aerial and TV leads). It is not unknown for tenants to install satellite wiring which the landlord does not want, or to install it badly.
  • Is there any furniture? If so, what and in what condition (I could probably write an article about this in its own right!) If it is a bed or mattress, has it got a Fire Safety label?

The most contentious room in the house is probably the kitchen. Here, generally, is where most cleaning is required at the end of the tenancy so, as well as the above items, all appliances should be listed, by make and model, and it should be noted whether they have instructions.

  • Cooker - is it clean and complete.
  • Fridge, freezer, washing machine, dryer, cooker hood, dishwasher, microwave, water heater - same questions
  • Sink: what is it made of and is it damaged or stained. Does it have a plug/s
  • Worksurfaces: are they damaged by knife scratching, stains or marks?
  • Cupboards: are they clean, complete and undamaged. Do they have kickboards?
  • Crockery and cutlery (the extent of detail needed varies here with the quality of the items. It is probably no great loss to loose a tupperwear container or an odd, unmatched, plate: while a plate from a valuable service is quite a different matter)
  • Stairs and landings: Are the banisters and rails complete? Are there smoke detectors? Do they work? Is there a loft access?

Bathrooms/shower rooms/ lavatories.
The second most contentious room in the house.

  • Are the tiles broken or dirty?
  • Is the loo, bath or basin dirty?
  • Is there water damage to walls or ceilings.
  • Is the grouting discoloured?
  • Is there scale on the showerhead?
  • What cupboards and fitments are there? Are they all in good working order?

As noted above, if the tenant is maintaining the gardens, then a record of these is needed too.

  • Are weeds growing up through paving?
  • What sheds, greenhouses, outbuildings and garages are there – and what do they contain (full tool list, as well as lawnmower make and model, shelves, etc)
  • Do lawns need cutting?
  • What fences are there, and are they sound?
  • Are flower beds tended?

The inventory should be used as the base document for two other procedures…. The checkin - this is where the inventory is given to a tenant for comment. Ideally, this should be accompanied by a clerk, letting agent or landlord, but many landlords and letting agents simply hand the form over with a written instruction that the inventory must be checked within a set period (often a week or fortnight), signed and returned. The checkout. Again, some agents and landlords insist that this is accompanied, while others inspect the property themselves, or have it inspected for them, after the tenant has left. The property is checked in detail against the inventory. From this, a checkout report listing all cleaning and maintenance issues (and meter readings) is compiled. This is used as a basis for cleaning and maintenance: and is essential in case of dispute. In compiling this report, the person who is doing it needs to be aware of quite a few issues. To give a couple of examples…

  • What constitutes 'normal wear and tear'. How long, for example, can walls be expected to last between repaints in normal circumstances?
  • The checker-out must also be aware that the law states that betterment is not allowed: which is to say that if a carpet was slightly dirty before and very dirty now, the tenant can not be charged the whole cost of cleaning.

From the above, it is obvious that there are an awful lot of things that can – and do – go wrong in a property. A new mattress, or work top, or table, or a cracked basin or loo can cost a lot to fix. Only if the evidence of their condition at the start of the tenancy exits does the landlord have a basis for a legal claim. Why use an inventory clerk? Again, I could write an article just on this subject: but, not being a cruel person, I shall refrain from doing so here. Just some of the more fundamental points, then… The whole process is time-consuming and complex. From all of the above, and critically because of the Tenants Deposit Scheme (on which I will write a further article), it should be obvious that it is best carried out by a professional. You may get away with 'do-it-yourself' once, twice, three times even. Most tenants are good, just like most landlords. Sooner or later, however, you will come across a tenant who has caused damage: that damage can be in one a hundred places: and if you do not have the experience and training to spot it, it will be you who picks up the tab. Another benefit of using a professional is that they will be covered by insurance if they are a member of a professional body such as the AIIC (association of Independent Inventory Clerks). As they are both trained and independent, their word will carry weight in court, should it go so far. Then, the professional will produce a document which is clear, concise and backed-up and so can not be destroyed or go astray. The above is a very brief summary of the inventory, check in and check out process. If you want to know more, please visit my web site at Here you will also see the area that I work in (Oxfordshire and North Bucks) and links to other clerks who operate throughout the country.