Too many landlords and agents are using digital evidence to replace essential written descriptions in inventories, at check-in and check-out, leaving landlords exposed to potentially costly disputes over wear and tear, warns the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
An increasing number of landlords and property professionals are providing photography and video evidence in the place of thorough and detailed reports in deposit dispute cases. Photographs and video can provide good illustration, but are not at all helpful without a detailed inventory.
Inventory reports should contain a full description of a property and its contents, with detail on every bit of damage and its exact location at the start of a tenancy. This can be supported with photographs and video – but these need to be of a high quality, so that any damage can be seen clearly.
Pat Barber, Chair of The AIIC, comments: “We want landlords and agents to be better informed in the event of a dispute, that means providing quality evidence to substantiate their claims for withholding the deposit.
“The law clearly states that the deposit remains the tenant’s money and that they are entitled to get it back at the end of their stay, provided they have met the terms of the tenancy agreement, so the onus lies with the agent or landlord to provide proof.
“We have seen some excellent inventories with the right balance of detail, supported by photography and video. But, more often than not, the photographs submitted in inventories are little larger than thumbnails and hence make it extremely difficult to see detail. To back up a damage issue, along with a detailed description, any photographs need to be of a reasonable size, so that the damage can be actually seen clearly. A glossy inventory that relies heavily on photographs will be of little use in a dispute.”
According to the AIIC, there is no point in producing a picture book for an inventory, with very little proper description and hundreds of photographs – inventories like these just do not provide enough detail. Photography and video are great for large areas of damage such as carpet burns, serious damage to worktops and interior décor etc.
However, they are not so good for showing really fine detail – the sort of problems that occur most frequently on a check out, such as small chips and scratches in sinks and baths, knife marks on worktops, scratches to halogen hobs. All of which, will cause financial loss to the landlord if negligence can’t be proved.
In a recent dispute, a landlord supplied his tenant with a photographic style inventory at check in. Since none of these were dated and no other written evidence was produced, the tenant won his case and the landlord had to fund some expensive replacements.
AIIC has outlined some guidelines when photographs as additional evidence below:
- Ideally, ‘before and after’ photos should be taken with a clear narrative as to what the photo is showing e.g. colours, item description, marks on surfaces
- Photographs should include something to show scale within the photo and they should clearly show the condition of the property at any given time
- Even if the photographs are just to be incorporated in the inventory for reference, they need to be a decent size
- Photographs should be dated – check the camera is set to automatically put the date on the picture or should be embedded into the dated inventory document either on the relevant pages or as an addendum page.
- If photographs are going to be printed out, the printer used needs to be good quality. Too often cheap printers distort the colour. Even good printers give false colours when cartridges start to run out
The AIIC is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process and works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.
For further information, please visit www.theaiic.co.uk