Property inventory report
Experience shows that photographic and video evidence within your inventory can be vital in dispute cases.
Once you have embedded your photos or videos into the inventory, as well as signing it yourself, don’t forget that your tenant also needs to sign it to confirm their agreement.
Why should you use photographs and video to support the written inventory
There are still landlords, managing agents and inventory clerks who choose not to use photographs in their inventories. This may well be because they’ve never had an inventory issue arise. It is best to have it and not need it than not have it when you need it. Visual content is more important than ever.
As a landlord, you will be aware that good quality photographic and video evidence is vital to help you demonstrate the extent of any damage or deterioration to your rental property during, and particularly at the end of a rental period. If you feel that it is reasonable to make a claim at the end of the tenancy, for things like cleaning, damage, or redecoration, then photographic or video evidence will assist in your negotiations with the tenant. In the unlikely event that you and your tenant cannot agree on the proposed costs and you need to use an alternative dispute resolution service, you will need to provide supporting evidence to an impartial adjudicator to support your claim.
What should be recorded at the beginning and end of the tenancy?
At the beginning of the tenancy, you should take time and date stamped photographs or a video of each room within the property and relevant outside areas. The video should clearly show the current condition and any existing damage or wear and tear. Video evidence can be beneficial in covering a wide area within the property in a short space of time and helps give an overall impartial view of the property. Photographs can, in some cases, be used to show greater detail and it is just a matter of preference which method you use. On check out, video and photographs should clearly show changes to the property including any deterioration and damage and should be taken from the same angle as those in the check-in inventory.
From carpets to gardens, if a landlord is proposing a cost to make good, it will usually be because they are stating that the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy, is worse than it was at the beginning. Remember to concentrate on any areas in the property you know cause issues which may lead to negotiation or a dispute at the end of the tenancy.
High Quality Photographs
Good quality photographs or videos are vital when negotiating with your tenants or painting a clear picture for an adjudicator. Make sure your photos or video are taken in good lighting with a high picture resolution. This is particularly important if you are taking video footage on a digital camcorder or mobile phone, as lighting and clarity can vary considerably. If you intend on printing the images, then make sure you use a good quality printer and date stamp the image.
Scale and referencing
It is good practice to give an indication of scale of any images you take, using items such as a ruler or a pen, or even a foot or a hand! It is also helpful to have a referencing system within your inventory report where photos can be numbered and paired with the written description and level of cleanliness in the property.
Safeguarding the reliability of images and video
Photographs or video, especially in a case sent to an adjudicator, will need to be authenticated to show the date they were taken if they are provided separately to a dated written inventory. Photographic or video evidence should be date and time stamped so that an adjudicator can verify when it was taken.
Best practice is to embed photographs into the inventory report and to get a signature from the tenant at the start and end of the tenancy to confirm their agreement. If photographs taken at the start are not embedded or date and time stamped, you should ask your tenant to sign and date each photograph to verify the detail.
At the very least, you should make sure you can provide evidence that the tenant has seen the photographs or video, such as an email with the attachments. Video footage can also have the date shown digitally on the screen. For photos and video, familiarise yourself with how to use the devices before you start to record your evidence. Check they are set to the correct date and automatically date the images before you start.
If you are relying on your computer’s properties page to show the date the photograph was taken, you should provide a print screen image of the properties page as the date may be lost during the file upload.
Relevant and referenced
Although it is helpful to take photographs of the whole property at the beginning of the tenancy, an adjudicator only requires evidence which is relevant to the issue in dispute, so only submit those that support your claim. If you are submitting video evidence, make sure that you reference the time in the footage that is relevant to your case. This is important to make sure your case is dealt with quickly and helps to clearly highlight the issue to an adjudicator.
- Keeping receipts for anything you’ve purchased or work you’ve had done is vital
- An adjudicator will accept that an invoice dated within a week of the start of the tenancy provides evidence of the condition of an area at the start of the term Similarly, at the end of the tenancy a detailed invoice or estimate is good supporting evidence of the work needed to rectify a problem
- Digitally dated and comparable photographs carry a great deal of weight
- Adjudicators prefer detailed and comprehensive inventories and reports to accurately compare the condition of the property at the start and end of the tenancy
- It’s important to remember that photographs can only tell part of the story and should not be relied upon exclusively if you end up in a formal dispute. On this occasion the adjudicator ruled in the landlord’s favour due to the dated photos
- The written inventory and photo or video evidence should be complementary; one should not replace the other