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A Renters' Guide to Inventories

16 November 2020 Simon Banks Read time: 3 min
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Simon Banks

Inventories sound a bit boring, and in truth, they kind of are. No one ever saw an inventory and was like, “well this looks like a riveting topic full of fun stuff.” But when it comes to renting a home, an inventory is vitally important. Like, really, really important.

They could save you thousands, seeing the return of your holding deposit without even the slightest hitch. That’s why we’ve put this guide together, detailing everything you need to know about inventories without any of the boring bits. So read on, and learn all you need to know when it comes to a rental home inventory so that you can get your deposit back, easy peasy.

What is an inventory

Inventory for a rental home

Think of an inventory like a menu at a fine restaurant, only the beef bourguignon is replaced by a two-seater sofa and the dish of the day is actually a king-size bed with storage space. The inventory essentially covers everything included by the landlord in the property.

If it’s furnished, you can be sure that all the furniture will be listed, as will other items provided by the landlord. It should include an outdoor space if there is one, and it may even feature the fixtures and fittings (though these are usually the landlord’s responsibility).

Now’s the bit where the inventory is slightly different from a succulent menu at your favourite restaurant. Each item included in the inventory report will have its condition recorded and is agreed on by yourself and the landlord. Basically, it’s like getting a rental car, and you check the condition before driving away on your road trip.

Why is the inventory needed?

Ok, so the part where the condition of each item on the inventory is listed is crucial. The landlord states the current condition of everything they’ve provided in the home with a brief description, something like: “velvet three-seater sofa with a large mark on the front-right leg”. The best inventories also include photographs.

At this point it’s up to you to review the inventory and sign it, essentially agreeing to the condition of the items featured in the list. It’s always important to cross-reference the inventory when you move in and ensure that everything aligns. This is vital for getting your deposit back (more on that in a bit)

Who is responsible for the inventory?

The landlord is responsible for the inventory, and they may put it together without any professional help. Alternatively, they might hire an inventory company and check-in and check-out clerk to do it on their behalf or use the letting agent.

Therefore, the inventory will either be conducted by the landlord, the letting agent or the professional clerk. Once it’s finished, they should walk you around the property and go through the report item by item. This is where you can consent or add things, like if the landlord forgets to include something or you notice damage not previously recorded.

What are check-in and check-out?

When you first move into the property, the check-in is the last part of the process of renting an apartment. It’s where the landlord, agent or clerk walks you around the property, showing how everything works. They also go through the inventory.

At the end of the tenancy, the landlord needs to officially check you out. Again, this is done either by the landlord, letting agent or clerk. It works much in the same way as the check-in, with the inventory being the most important aspect. Whoever checks you out will go through the inventory and see if the condition of the property is the same, minus fair wear and tear.

What is wear and tear?

Wear and tear sofa

Fair wear and tear, my renter friend, is natural damage that occurs throughout a tenancy. This can include the fading of carpets and curtains, day-to-day use of items in the property and areas of the walls that may need a lick of paint.

Fair wear and tear have no impact on your ability to get the holding deposit back. Things like small marks or scuffs on the walls are fine. If, however, the check-out clerk notices, let’s say, a huge gaping hole in the wall, then you might find that you have a problem.

Why is an inventory needed?

Remember when we said that inventories are a bit boring but also super necessary? Well, that’s because they hold the key to getting your holding deposit back. The inventory is evidence in case the landlord wants to deduct money from your deposit.

But it also works as evidence on your behalf and can be used by renters to challenge the landlord’s decision if they decide to withhold some or all of your deposit. In an ideal world, however, landlords will check the inventory at the end of the tenancy, see that everything is in good order, and hand you back your deposit. Good times all round.

For more on holding deposits and how to get them back, check out our featured article

What happens if there is no inventory or I don’t sign it?

A lack of inventory means no proof, no truth. Therefore, it’s in the landlord’s best interests to have one ready before you move in. Without an inventory, they have no evidence to withhold your deposit. If for any reason a landlord doesn’t provide an inventory, then you can carry your tenancy on as normal. However, it’s very rare to have a tenancy without one.

When reviewing the inventory, you should alert the person checking you in right away if you disagree with anything, as ignoring it will go against you. It will become binding after 30 days if you don’t sign the inventory or let the check-in clerk know of any issues.


So, there you have it; everything you need to know about inventories. Now you can see why they’re so important to your tenancy; you can safeguard your deposit and look forward to all the good stuff, such as moving into a new home and enjoying your living adventure.

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