It is frustrating for a landlord to be left covering the cost of damages or loss made to their property during their tenants’ residency.
Floors can be scuffed, carpets stained and doors unnecessarily snapped from their hinges, as well as basic furnishings disappearing, among many other inventory issues.
But when it comes to returning a tenant’s deposit, it is not as simple as taking the required fee from the sum. The landlord must be able to prove to both a court and a tenant that damage or loss has been suffered.
Conversely, it also covers the tenant from being penalised for damages that were already in place before they took up their residency, and thus, ensures landlords do not miss sufficient damage caused by a former tenant.
‘Sufficient damage’ refers to damage that is caused unfairly, and is opposed to Fair Wear and Tear. This is, as the House of Lords described it, ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’.
This is a contentious area because wear and tear can be a subjective matter. However, a detailed property inventory, perhaps composed by an experienced inventory clerk, should ensure appropriate standards of wear and tear are defined.
Landlords are subject to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) and must place their tenant’s deposit into either a Custodial or Insurance scheme run by an independent provider.
Discrepancies arise when there is a dispute regarding the return of the deposit, often to do with issues surrounding property damage.
A detailed property inventory form must then be produced to prove exactly what damage was caused by the tenant, based on the condition of the premises prior to their arrival.
A property inventory is a legally binding document that provides an accurate in-depth review of the conditions and contents of a property at the start of a tenancy.
It is not enough to list an array of items the property is equipped with, nor is it sufficient to simply say where a scratch or crack lies.
The property inventory is part of the tenancy agreement between the landlord and the tenant, and as such, all defects must be carefully noted in the inventory to ensure that the landlord can prove a tenant caused harm to the property, which subsequently led to refurbishment, repair and/or cleaning costs.
A detailed account of a property will include the condition of fixtures, fittings and decorations, including walls, carpets and equipment.
It will also feature a full list of furniture and accessories, as well as an overview of the garden and outdoor vicinities.
It is less likely that areas like lofts and cellars will need to be covered, unless expressly requested.
There are a variety of reasons why a landlord should at the very least, make their way through a property inventory template.
However, it is most advisable they invest in a property inventory that could save them a lot of unnecessary, and often unfair, expenses.
The greatest reason for this is the fact that it gives landlords a level of security when claiming a fee from a tenant’s deposit.
It also ensures tenants are not held responsible for loss or damage they did not cause, which helps promote a healthy relationship between them and the landlord.
A detailed inventory will help speed up negotiations regarding deposits, and makes the process easier.
Lastly, a property inventory will ensure tenants realise the landlord values their property and takes offences against it seriously. This should go towards encouraging them to take greater care of their accommodation.
Landlords interested in making an inventory should consider downloading Lawpack’s solicitor-approved Property Inventory template.