When you rent a property, you will often have a checkin or handover meeting before you move in. The landlord or agent will take you round and check the contents against the inventory list. You will then be asked to sign to confirm that everything is in order, before you are given your tenants copy, and the keys to the property.
There will be a lot going on when you sign up, and you may therefore not take as much care as perhaps you should, in checking the condition of the property carefully against the inventory. Probably also you will be excited about your new home, and not really in a mood to notice whether or not there is a stain on the carpet or scratches on the furniture.
However it is important that you try. Particularly if the person doing the checkin meeting with you is the landlord himself, rather than an inventory clerk or agent who are likely to be more impartial about things (and perhaps a bit fairer to tenants).
Tenants responsibilities for damage
Remember that the whole point of the inventory that you are being asked to sign, is that it is a record of the condition of the property at the time you moved in.
For example, if there is no record of that long deep scratch on the kitchen table surface at checkin it will be assumed, at the checkout meeting when you leave, that you caused it. Meaning you may be expected to pay for a new table, or have the cost deducted from your deposit. This has often happened to unwary tenants.
After you have moved in
As well as taking care during the checkin meeting, it is also a good idea to check over carefully the contents and condition of the property yourself, during the first couple of days. If you find something wrong, or something damaged that is not noted on the inventory, make sure that you let your landlord or the agent know about it, in writing.
Email is a often good method, as emails are dated, so you will then be able to prove that the message about the wobbly door handle or the problems with using the shower, was sent within a day of your moving in. If you send a letter make sure it is dated. It is then less likely that the landlord will be able to claim successfully that the damage was done by you, the tenants.
Tenants taking photographs and video is also a good idea, particularly if they show the date. As are written statements from independent witnesses.
If your landlord or agent does not use an inventory, it is even more important that you keep a record of the state of the property when you moved in. Remember, the better the evidence you have of any problems at that time, the less likely it is that you will be blamed for them when you leave, and be asked to pay for them.
See more help for tenants on Landlord Law.