Tenancy Deposits: Inventories / Condition Schedules
Is an Inventory Compulsory?
Tenancy deposit protection does not make inventories compulsory. However, in practice, they are essential. Not only will you need an inventory in the sense of a list of items included in the tenancy (e.g. beds, curtains etc) but the inventory will have to record any damage/the condition of each item. Any existing defects at the beginning of the tenancy will need to be set out.
If your deposit is intended to cover damage to the property itself you will also need a condition schedule. Again, this will need to record any damage which exists when the tenancy starts.
If an item of furniture is new or if the property has been recently internally decorated this will need to be recorded in your conditions schedule. You will need to take a full photographic record (e.g. with a digital camera or camcorder).
When and How to take an Inventory
You will need to take an inventory/condition schedule both at the start of the tenancy and when the tenancy ends. You will need to make sure that at the beginning of the tenancy the tenant(s) signs off the inventory/condition schedule.
You must make sure that you check it carefully before they sign. Any photographs should be dated. For example you can always hold up a newspaper showing the date when you take one of the photographs.
It may not always be possible to get the tenant to check out the inventory/condition schedule at the end of the tenancy but try to do so wherever possible.
Where available consider employing an inventory clerk to prepare these inventories/condition schedule.
What happens when you don't have an Inventory?
There have been a number of decisions by adjudicators under existing voluntary schemes which show that unless you follow these rules there is little or not chance of you recovering anything out of the deposit for damage. In any case, you must remember that a deposit will not cover fair wear and tear.
Likewise, decisions by District Judge in County Court small claims have also shown that unless you follow these procedures exactly, it is unlikely that you will be awarded any part of the deposit to make good any damage.
It is common for a tenant to claim that the damage already existed when the tenancy started. Unless you have proof of the state of the furniture/property at the beginning in the form of a properly prepared and agreed inventory/condition schedule you are unlikely to succeed.
What other evidence will the landlord need?
If, following the end of the tenancy you have to make good any damage you will need to have proper receipts/estimates/invoices. You should obtain at least two estimates for the cost of making good the damage; otherwise the tenant can challenge the cost.
If you want to claim the cost of damage to an item of furniture, you should retain proof of purchase to show the cost at the time of purchase.
You must make sure that you carefully preserve all of these records. The tip is to keep a proper tenancy file containing all of this information.
Each scheme has different rules in relation to inventories and these are set out below:
Scheme rules relating to Inventories
Tenancy Deposit Solutions – are inventories compulsory?
No. However, as dispute arbitration will be evidence based, inventories and schedules of condition will play a far greater role at the end of tenancy periods.
It is strongly suggested that you introduce an inventory and get your tenant to agree it at the start of the tenancy period.
Photographic and video evidence is now much easier to obtain due to the advent of mobile phone cameras and other cheap digital storage devices.
Dispute Resolution Service – Notification of a dispute by a landlord.
The Landlord’s dispute form must be fully and properly completed and must:
- set out details of the precise issues which are in dispute and the reasons for the amount of any Deposit claimed by the Landlord;
- attach the signed check-in inventory and schedule of condition
- attach vacating instructions;
- attach the signed check-out inventory and schedule of condition;
- attach a signed and legally compliant written tenancy agreement;
- if an Agent is acting, attach a copy of their terms of business/management;
- attach a schedule of the cost of any works sought from the Deposit together with estimates, invoices and receipts (produced by an independent or third party) and photographs if available;
- attach a statement of the rent account, if relevant;
- where housing benefit has been paid, attach a letter from the Housing Benefit Department stating when it will stop, or that it has stopped;
- attach any other relevant information including photographs, DVDs, correspondence or receipts. Any photographs or digital evidence must be signed or a statement should be attached signed by the party providing them and showing the date on which they were taken;
- confirm that they have been in contact with the tenant.
- If the Landlord is unable to provide any of the information detailed in Rule 3b above, they must explain to the DPS why they are unable to do so and the DPS will then exercise its discretion as to whether to admit the Dispute to the ADR Procedure notwithstanding such failure.
The notification form you have to fill in in case of a dispute asks you to provide a number of documents. One of these is a “check in report, together with a signed inventory and a signed schedule of condition”. If you cannot provide all the documents on the list outlined on this form, you will have to explain why.
NOTE: The RLA is grateful to the British Property Federation for supplying the analysis setting out the individual requirements of each of the tenant deposit schemes relating to inventories.
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Does the RLA have an Inventory for its members to use?
Yes, to learn about and download the RLA Inventory, click here