Photos don't cut it for property inventories

by Sarah Ashcroft

Too many landlords are overly reliant on using photos in inventories, making them less likely to win tenancy deposit disputes with tenants. 

This is the warning from the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC), which says a good property inventory ought to contain full written descriptions in order for landlords to ensure they avoid problems with tenants when they vacate a property.

Additionally, digital photos accompanying the inventory are very often too small to make out any details, which can lead to disputes. A good property inventory template is therefore a must for landlords.

It follows a warning from the Association of Residential Letting Agents, which said accurate property inventories are becoming even more essential as the average length of tenancies increases. Longer tenancy periods usually mean greater wear and tear on the property, as well as reduced downtime for landlords to make repairs, the organisation explained.

The AIIC believes a good inventory will contain a thorough description of the property, its contents and every little bit of damage and its location. Although photos can be used to support and illustrate the evidence, they shouldn't be used a replacement to written descriptions, the organisation stresses.

Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC, explained that landlords must realise that "quality evidence" is required 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," she said.

Photographs submitted in inventories are usually no bigger than thumbnails, making it extremely difficult to see the necessary detail, Ms Barber added.

"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," she said.

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Published on: March 30, 2012

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