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Tenants questions on inventory charges

checkingHere are some questions for the blog clinic on inventory forms from Vera (not her real name) who is a tenant

The first property: I have been renting the current property for a year. I am now leaving the property because the landlord wants to sell it.

Now when we have found another property to rent the landlord has advertised the property for rent. In the current property I have been asked to pay both the inventory check-in fee and check-out fee because it was stated in the tenancy agreement.

In the properties I have rented so far, the inventory check was conducted by the landlord and approved/confirmed by us. Hence whether or the cost of professional inventory inspection at the the time of check in and check out should be borne by the tenant or not was not know to us.

This property is furnished and well presented. We were charged 95£+ vat at the time of check-in. The cost of check-out is a total of £115. Is it fair to bear both the costs?

The agency says because they keep their admin fee low, both inventory check-in and check-out has to be borne by the tenant. And also since it is agreed upon by both parties in the tenancy agreement, there is very little that can be done. Is this fair?

The second property: The agent of the new property is letting a part furnished property which was initially advertised as furnished. The inventory check-in cost for the furnished property was 140+vat.

After putting an offer for the new property the agent got back and said the property is actually unfurnished. We tried to walk away from the deal but the agent kept pursuing us and finally agreed to provide some furniture since they advertised the property as furnished.

However, in the written offer they still state the property is furnished and the inventory cost is £140+VAT. I have pointed out to them that property is actually part furnished and that the cost of the inventory should also change accordingly. Lot of lies, manipulative statements have been made so far.

I don’t know which inventory clerk is going to do the inventory check-in. What are my rights? Why can’t I make a payment directly to the inventory clerk?

The first property

Here the answer is straightforward. Under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 clauses regarding payment of charges must be fair.

It is considered unfair for tenants to bear the cost of both checkin and checkout fees and so the clause in your contract requiring you to pay both will therefore be unfair and unenforceable.

So you can tell the agent this and refuse to pay it.  If the agents deduct the sum from your deposit this is something you should be able to challenge via the free adjudication service.

The second property

This will depend on the charges structure for the inventory clerk used but many have a scale of charges where unfurnished or part furnished properties are charged out at a cheaper rate.

Again, here you should only be responsible for one of the inventory fees so make sure they are not planning on charging you for both.

From what you say, it sounds as if you don’t know what furniture is going to be provided to you, so I would check this out – before you sign the tenancy agreement.  It may be that the furniture provided will actually bring the property into the furnished category.

As regards paying the inventory clerk direct, I don’t think this is normal – do any inventory clerk or letting agent readers have any comments on whether or not this could be done?

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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6 Responses to Tenants questions on inventory charges

  1. Very interesting indeed
    the agent can not state something and then change it, the have a code of practice they must follow.

    It may be worth contacting
    Estate agents governing body http://www.tpos.co.uk

    Below is a PDF explaining the code of practice
    http://www.tpos.co.uk/…/TPOE27-1%20Code%20of%20Practice%20for%20R.

    Kind Regards

    Steve

    Happy to help

  2. Jonathan Senior says:

    I think this is all great advice, and even though we do not side with either party regarding the inventory and checkout, we certainly don’t like to see unfair treatment given to anyone.

    I don’t see why a tenant cannot pay for or even commission either report if they believe it will help protect their deposit, we do have tenants doing this with our organisation, especially checkout.

  3. Jamie says:

    “It is considered unfair for tenants to bear the cost of both checkin and checkout fees and so the clause in your contract requiring you to pay both will therefore be unfair and unenforceable.”

    Are you sure that’s right Tessa and not just wishful thinking?

    I know the costs are often shared with the landlord (although our landlords actually pay for the inventory, check-in and check-out), but provided the fees are clearly pointed out to the tenant in advance and they are a core term of the agreement then I dont see why it should be automatically classed as an unfair term. I don’t think the TDS or OFT cite this as an example of an unfair term under the UTCRs.

  4. Jamie says:

    Furthermore:

    “In the properties I have rented so far, the inventory check was conducted by the landlord … hence whether the cost of professional inventory inspection …should be borne by the tenant or not was not know to us.”

    And yet above that you say teh fees were stated in your tenancy agreement!

    Where is the emoticon when you need one?

    As far as paying the clerk direct, whoever instructs them is liable for the payment although it really depends how flexible your agent is willing to be. The clerk may also not want to be paid directly by the tenant, especially if they already have arrangments with the agent like monthly bulk invoicing on account etc.

  5. 1. I’m not entirely sure regarding the unfairness of both check-in and check-out fees being borne by the tenant. We actually charge our tenants for checkouts only so we have not had to deal with this issues. However, what’s probably more important is whether any of those fees have been spelled out in the agent’s terms of business. If not, then I think the agent should have little ground to charge you (and so complain to them and, if needed, take it up with Ombudsman if they are a member).

    2. If the charges are spelled out in the tenancy agreement, that actually does not make things simpler for an agent. I’m not versed in the details of specific law (and so perhaps someone else could shed some more light) but a tenancy is between a landlord and a tenant. And so any deposit repaid to an agent (which would be the case if they manage the property on behalf of the landlord) actually belongs to the landlord.

    3. As to organising checkin and / or checkout and paying for it. My view as an agent (and a landlord too) is that I’d rather commission those myself. And it is nothing to do with a possibility of influencing inventory clerk. It is more to do with the whole matter of managing the process of move in and move out (of which check in and checkout is part of) – I want to know I’m using a reliable inventory clerk and I do not want to depend on the hope the tenant got those things organised on time and in the appropriate manner. As an agent, I see this as part of my professional duty to my landlord (and as a landlord I would expect an agent to take care of it).

    4. Direct payment from the tenant to inventory clerk for checkin and / or checkout. Well, if I commission any of those reports then I’m responsible for the payment. I do not need an extra hassle of checking with inventory clerk if the payment was made (or indeed being chased by them). No inventory clerk would agree to carry out work that they are to be paid for directly by the tenant without receiving the payment first.

    5. With regards to the cost, I cannot comment on the exact figures but the inventory clerk that we use that not actually charge much more for furnished property (especially if it is a small property). The difference can be £10 – £20.

  6. Jamie says:

    Sam,

    Re your second point:

    Of course defining fees in the agreement helps the agent; how else will you recover them if they are unpaid?

    The landlord and the agent may deduct monies from the tenant’s deposit in order to compensate them for losses caused by the tenant failing to fulfill their obligations under the agreement.

    Reasons for deposit deductions should be clearly explained in the agreement and should include any unpaid agency fees. In this case the unpaid check-out fees can be deducted as they were the tenant’s liability under the agreement. This would be paid to the agent not the landlord.

    From one agent to another, this isn’t “details of specific law”, it’s basic knowledge I’d expect from any professional agent.




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