The accidental landlord: using inventory companies doesn't guarantee a good inventory

Victoria Whitlock finds that paying an inventory company doesn't mean the job will be done well
You’d think with the fees they charge, most inventory companies would feel obliged to do a pretty good job — but the one I just used didn't. This company's inventory was the very opposite of the glowing claims made on its website. In fact, it was fairly rubbish.

Even ignoring the inventory clerk's hilarious spelling mistakes (the property has several slash windows and colored walls, apparently), the report was so slap-dash that my 12-year-old could have done a better job. An inventory should be detailed and accurate. This was neither.

The clerk wrote that those "slash" windows and a Venetian blind were all "tested and in full working order"; either he never tested them or a minor miracle has occurred, as the windows don't stay open and the blind has been broken for ages. He failed to mention the wooden worktops in the kitchen, missed out period features, such as original Victorian gaslight holders on the walls, and described a loose rug as a fitted carpet.

Perhaps it was his first day on the job, but unless he's lived in a cardboard box all his life I'm struggling to understand why he was incapable of accurately describing any of the property's features. He described a large, free-standing wardrobe as a "wall-mounted cupboard", called the cast-iron fireplaces "metal" and described the original floorboards as "fitted flooring". Oh well, I suppose it was no worse than the inventory clerk who gave one of my flats "striped Polish floorboards".

What is unforgivable, though, is that this clerk failed to include the garden in his report, even though the company had promised, in writing, that he would.

Lots of inventory companies don't bother to include gardens, but I'm not sure why. Tenants can do a lot of damage to the outside space, as I discovered when I let my house to a family who turned my lawn into an allotment and let their youngest child kick holes in the fence.

If you expect your tenants to maintain the garden, you need an accurate record of its condition when you hand over the property. Gardens, I think, are an essential part of an inventory.

You're supposed to get new tenants to sign the inventory, or check-in report, when they move in to say that it's an accurate description of the property and its contents — but to hand them an inventory as useless as this one looks unprofessional.

None of the clerk's mistakes were particularly serious but with so many errors, how could I rely on it in the future to prove what the property was like when the tenant moved in? Fortunately, I'd arranged the inventory 48 hours before the tenant arrived, so the clerk could return to do it again; unfortunately, the company refused to return, preferring instead to refund the cost. So the tenant and I had to go painstakingly through his report correcting all the errors.

To avoid any future dispute over the garden, I printed out a large photo I'd taken and the tenant signed the back to say that it was a true representation of its contents and condition.

I have mentioned before about doing without professional inventories. But if you know of a really good company, let me know.

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