Undertaking inventory at check-in, check-out, and in between times is an ongoing problem for landlords or managing agents because it takes time. The check-in inventory should be carried out the day before the tenant moves in, ideally with the tenant present. This is the best way of handling it because both of you can agree on the condition of the premises and any damage, such as a scratch on the front door of a fridge, for instance.
There are several ways you can go about inventory, not the least of which is the old-fashioned clipboard and biro way. Ideally, you will want to use a landlord template and a quick search online will find you some. However, you can always create your own template for the property, bearing in mind that if you are a landlord with several properties it is likely that they will all have differences, or a managing agent may be looking after a large range of different properties.
Furthermore, if you are managing a lot of properties that are furnished or partially furnished, all of the furnishings will be different in each property.
You may consider it worthwhile to hire a paid inventory service with an inventory clerk to help document and carry out the inventory check. Hiring an inventory clerk can save you a considerable amount of time and issues, but of course there is a cost which will be an extra, or factored in. However, it does put some space between you and the tenant. When the tenancy ends and there is a dispute between you as the landlord and the tenant, the check-in and check-out reports are crucial pieces of evidence.
The inventory should be a full list of the contents of the property, if any, along with photographs where appropriate. You also need to note the condition of the walls, floors, ceilings, light fittings, windows, doors, etc. It is worth doing carefully, noting any chipped paintwork or perhaps worn spots on a carpet, and photographing them so that there can be no dispute of the initial condition, either by landlord or tenant.
The check-in report should either be on, or just before, your tenant’s move in date, and preferable with the tenant present. This will be before the tenant has moved any of his belongings in or used anything in the property. Once you have completed the check-in inventory it should be signed by both landlord and tenant and the tenant supplied with a copy.
You will need to carry out regular inventories during the course of the tenancy, and how often you do so is a matter for you. Some people say every three months, some every six, while others feel that once a year is sufficient. Remember that the tenant is entitled to 24 hours’ notice of an inventory: you can’t just turn up on the doorstep.
There is a difference between damage caused by the tenant and fair wear and tear. For instance, carpets will wear over time and paintwork will become discoloured. That is to be expected and it is down to the landlord to pay for it. However, if there is a big chip in the kitchen sink, that can be classed as damage. Whether it was deliberate or accidental is irrelevant.
If you and the tenant agree that damage has occurred, you will need to get estimates for repair or replacement. If the damage is substantial and is not covered by the deposit you may need to agree a payment schedule with the tenant.
Today, there is a faster way to carry out inventory than using a clipboard, and that is to download one of the apps that you can get for your smartphone or tablet. These will have dictation software that you can use to dictate your notes as you go from room to room, and will also give you prompts, so for instance in the bathroom it will prompt you to check the taps and the shower head.
Using dictation software in some of the apps enables you to upload it to the supplier’s server, and then it will be ready for you to type up when you return to the office. Alternatively, there is at least one app where the supplier will type up your inventory for you for a small fee which saves you the time doing that as well.