“I’ll do my own inventory.” Bad idea, says director of Hawk & Chadwick, St Albans

Doing your own property inventory is NOT a good idea...

Doing your own property inventory is NOT a good idea... - Credit: Archant

Let me start by just telling you what an incredibly bad idea that is. No, really - it’s the worst idea you’ve had, ever. Doing your own inventory for your property can only be compared to attempting skydiving without instruction, or attempting to fly a helicopter after a heavy absinthe binge - possibly even lion taming while blindfolded and wearing a meat coat.

The problem is, you might be lucky and have a situation where nothing happens - you might even have ran tenancies for years without any problems, but to coin a term - one swallow does not a summer make.

For those who haven’t a clue what I’m on about, let me explain something. When a tenant agrees to rent a property, the landlord will often make a reasonable effort to give the property to their new tenant in a good condition - clean, freshly decorated and in a generally operable and liveable condition. Many tenants do their best to look after this and return things in a pretty good state, but there’s always been this grey area - is it like a hotel room, or do i treat it like my own house? Hmmmm....

Now without getting into the legal semantics and boring the pants off everyone lets just say that the way it works in 2016 is that a tenant pays a deposit (usually between 1-2 months worth of rent) to the landlord who holds the money against any damage and returns it at the end of the tenancy - the deposit has to go into an approved scheme and be properly protected.

“So who decides what’s damaged and what isn’t? Surely things wear out over time?”

Exactly, young gwasshopper. That’s what the inventory is for - you have to hold some kind of record of what it was like at the start, in order to be able to prove that there is a difference at the end - savvy?

So what happens if you write your own inventory on the back of a fag packet - well, besides obviously missing things out and ending up with a huge tangled mess when you get to the end and your tenant turns out to be a qualified solicitor or a housing officer....or worse a letting agent....the other problem you have is impartiality (which, incidentally, is why getting your letting agent to do your inventories is equally daft) because you can be accused of twisting things in your favour.

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So what’s the solution? Well, as usual being the author of this article I get to have the pompous self righteousness to dole out advice as I see fit, but in all sincerity the best option you have is to approach an AIIC qualified inventory clerk and have a robust detailed inventory carried out on your property.

The level of detail will ensure that far from having to resolve disputes at the end, there simply won’t be any - if you leave no margin for error and no grey area, then there can be no argument and everything will be fully signed and squared away meaning you and the tenant can walk away at the end without a bad word between you.

An inventory clerk also takes note of things such as meter readings, ensuring you and your tenant aren’t paying more than you should be for utilities and bills when tenancies change. It keeps everything in the open, documented and very fair.

Having a hyper detailed inventory also compels the tenant to look after your property and to report and problems promptly. It’s just one of the many ingredients that go in to making managing property a breeze rather than a headache.

Another hidden benefit is if you are able to file away your inventories you can look back and create budget projections for the replacement of larger items, meaning you can really nail down your cash flow and start thinking very clearly about allocating budgets which will allow you to expand your portfolio.

For every tenancy I put in place, I insist on using a fully qualified inventory clerk - yes, sometimes our clients choose to save money and do their own, and yes sometimes it goes without a hitch and they escape any bad weather - but it’s a risk I certainly wouldn’t take if I had the option, and in the property game where risks should be eliminated, it would seem counter intuitive to adopt more exposure.

So there we are, don’t be an inexperienced lion tamer - and don’t let pride come before a fall (sorry, that was a terrible pun) - it’s only going to cost you money if you don’t use a professional, and for the sake of less than £150.00, that’s not a lot to protect you from deposit disputes at the end of your next tenancy.