Inventory = typically a list of items provided as part of a furnished property. Ideally listed on a room by room basis.
Ideally should be given before you sign the tenancy agreement so ask for this after a viewing. but more typically it will be given when you move in.
If you have asked or agreed for anything additional to be added/removed at the viewing ask for this to be written into the tenancy agreement as a special condition. Often things are agreed verbally but are not recorded and then not honoured. These are very difficult to evidence.
Is this different to a Schedule of Condition & Cleanliness?
An inventory is typically just a list and has no commentary on the condition. Since deposit protection became law an inventory serves as more than just a list. It needs to comment on the condition/cleanliness and age of the items too. Many tenants simply follow the format of the form and only comment on the condition of the property/item and not the cleanliness of the property. However, many landlords attempt to claim against the deposit for cleanliness at the end of the tenancy. Therefore, it is advisable to adapt the form as necessary and comment on condition AND cleanliness at the start of the tenancy as well as at the end.
If your landlord does not provide you with an inventory, then create your own. Here is a template for you to adapt so it is suitable for your property. You can also find other versions online
Whether you have been provided one or created your own, conduct an Inventory/Schedule of Condition & Cleanliness at the start of the tenancy.
Dedicate enough time to carry out a thorough and detailed check of the property. You cannot realistically examine everything in a quick glance. Taking 7 days is common good practice but it is best to do this before everyone unpacks everything.
If you are going to be Joint Tenants, and you are the first to arrive don’t just check your room. Discuss who is going to be moving in first and who will need to undertake this process on behalf of everyone.
A landlord or agent may want to come with you on the first day of the tenancy or on the day the first person arrives to collect the keys and try to get you to complete the inventory whist they are there with you. Some tenancy agreements stipulate this. Request in writing a longer period to do this.
Take dated photographs to support anything you find and note everything on the document. Don’t just take zoomed in shots. Ensure you can see the issue in the context of the room it relates to as well.
Two of the deposit protection schemes have provided guidance on how to do this:
My Deposits Using Photos and Video as evidence
TDS Use of photographs, videos and DVDs
Don’t forget to comment on the inside of the microwave, or washer soap drawer, because it is likely they will be this thorough when they conduct this process when you hand the property back. Even photograph the meter readings!
Sign and date, KEEP A COPY and send the completed document to the Landlord/Agent with any associated evidence. Be able to evidence that you have submitted it.
Why is this necessary?
The Inventory/Schedule of Condition and cleanliness acts as a record / evidence of how the property was handed over to you AND how you hand it back. Sometimes called a check in and check out appointment.
Anything that appears to have occurred during the tenancy could give the landlord a legitimate claim to make deductions from your security deposit.
This process should protect you from claims against your deposit and avoid confusion as to who caused what damage.
You shouldn’t be expected to hand back the property in a better condition than you received it.
If your landlord tries to keep some or all of your security deposit you can dispute this either through the deposit schemes (if relevant) or through the courts.
Regardless of whom is holding your deposit, legally it is your money and the burden of proof is on the landlord/agent to prove they are entitled to keep it.
The inventory/schedule of condition and cleanliness evidence will be required by the deposit scheme adjudicators or judge to help make a decision about the deposit return.
Make sure everyone understands the importance and connection of this document/process to the deposit.
Check to see if your deposit should be protected and that it actually is. Don’t rely on the contract just saying it is.
Updated: 16 November 2020