My property is unfurnished – do I need an Inventory?
Yes! Even if a property is unfurnished or ‘empty’, it is likely to contain many high value items. The Inventory is not just a list of the furniture and the items that are in a property. The Inventory would show the condition of doors, walls, windows, curtains, carpets, bathrooms, kitchen appliances, garden etc. At the Check-in the Inventory clerk will also prepare a Schedule of condition, which is crucial with regards to proving what was the general state of the property and the level of cleanliness at the start of the tenancy. Both documents are very important for solving disputes at the end of the tenancy.
Many Landlords believe that if their property is unfurnished very little can be stolen or damaged and thus they don’t need an Inventory. But the Tenants might repaint the walls in dark colours or leave newly painted walls heavily marked, windows cracked, hardwood floors or kitchen worktops damaged, carpets stained or with cigarettes burns and so on. And all these could be costly to repair or replace.
Finally, if there is no Inventory there will be nothing to evidence the cleanliness at the start of the Tenancy and there will be very little that can be done when Tenants leave the property dirty on departure. And even for a small 1 bed flat the cleaning invoice could be a few hundred pounds.
Some Landlords think that in such cases they can simply deduct money from the Tenants' deposit. But if the Tenant is not happy with the deductions he can take the matter to court. In such cases the Landlord will have to prove what was that the state of the property prior to the Tenant inhabiting it in order to justify the deductions to the deposit.
And if the Tenant’s deposit is put into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the obligation to provide proof for deductions is for the Landlord or his Agent. The arbitrators see the deposit as the Tenant’s and often the tenant will say “But it was like it when we moved in”. The Landlords need to provide reliable evidence of the condition of the property at the start and at the end of tenancy to support their claim for deductions from the deposit. If there is no Inventory prepared the Landlord might not be able to receive any money from the Tenant’s deposit. Not only that he will have to pay for redecorating, repairing or cleaning of the property.
In summary, the best evidence, a Landlord can provide, to support a claim for deductions from the security deposit, is a good Inventory and Schedule of Condition, signed and agreed by both parties, and a detailed Check-Out report, supported by photographs. Without an Inventory, a Landlord’s chances of success are limited.