More and more lettings agents are starting to use third-party companies to carry out their inventory at check-in. But do you know what's involved?
We invited Founder and Managing Director of inventory specialist, Intent Group (more commonly known as Intent Inventories), Christian Ciraolo, to give us the lowdown of third-party inventory services and their benefits in this guest post.
What are the risks of landlords and agents carrying out inventory checks themselves?
Inventories have gained more traction as the industry has been more legislated. Originally, inventories were done in-house but it was increasingly found that inventories being conducted were not impartial. Having an external provider means this can’t happen because the inventory being conducted is entirely fair to everyone and non-biased.
This is especially helpful in cases of deposit disputes due to damage to property. A picture is worth a thousand words — having everything in the property evidenced in an inventory report with pictorial evidence and date and time stamps makes it much easier for all parties involved.
How do third-party inventory services actually work in practice?
When the clerk goes in to conduct an inventory, a mid-term inspection, a check-in or check-out, there are no external factors that can sway the report, which is what makes a third-party inventory so effective. We try and create a virtual walk around of each property. A typical inventory report can have around 200 photographs.
The process is simple; once the clerk has been in to assess the property and the inventory is carried out, the tenant and landlord has a set period (usually about a week) from the time they receive the report to move into the property, understand how it functions and if there is anything that doesn’t correlate with the report, they can come back to us and raise the query. The inventory report can be amended as per request, if their issue is justified. Once that’s been done, the report is set in stone until the end of the tenancy.
Minimising Covid-19 transmission risks
Obviously when lockdown was announced, we had to restructure our whole methodology, from everything to collecting keys to how we check in. Our main concern was protecting our team as well as anyone we come into contact with. For the first two months, we were moving a lot of key workers into properties closer to their work, so we carried out a lot of inventories.
We relied heavily on PPE but also changed a lot of processes. We were able to carry out a lot of virtual check-ins, via Facetime, phone or Whatsapp, leave keys in locked places for clients. It put a lot of challenges in place, but we stuck to social distancing and sanitising when handing over keys. We did our business outside and at a distance or online to keep staff and clients safe.
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How should landlords/letting agents choose a third-party inventory service?
The first thing most people look at is fees, but this isn’t the best starting point.
You want to look deeper than cost because you’re not just paying for the job, you’re paying for the efficiency, quality and detail of the report and the knowledge of the industry which should come before everyone else. When choosing a provider, make sure the company you choose fulfils each of those things, depending on what your business model requires. Look for companies that are members of recognised organisations such as the Guild of Letting and Management, the Property Redress Scheme or the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks. Use those as a foundation and you’ll likely find a suitable provider.
This industry is very people-based so work with trustworthy people that you feel you can build up a good rapport with. Don’t be afraid to ask for samplers or references or even a test run to see how that company produces the work and the quality and efficiency involved.
It’s not just a document; an inventory is a legally binding document that serves as a reference point for the entire property.
Anyone interested in learning more about Christian's work, please refer to www.intentinventories.com