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Most Landlords do not realise that Agents normally outsource the production of residential property inventories to specialist inventory companies.
Ultimately, if you are unhappy with the inventory service, i.e. the quality of the report or price, you may insist on using another firm as it is the Landlord and Tenant who must actually agree the inventory and pay for the service. But be warned, estate/letting agents do this stuff on a daily basis and they usually have a good reason for what they do, how they do it and who they work with.
If you think the fee you are being charged is too high then you can always get your own quotes to compare with the agents. However, it is important to keep in mind that price is only one factor the agent considers when assigning the task at hand. Others may be availability of the clerk, reliability and quality of the report to name just a few.
If you are letting a property yourself, or want to select your own inventory firm/clerk and use an agent as well, here are some things you should consider when choosing an inventory service provider.
The inventory provider should be a member of a professional association. These are the Association of Professional Inventory Providers (APIP) and the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC). There are other association but these tend to be businesses promoting their own inventory clerks and are not independent governing bodies.
The Inventory provider should make readily available their terms and conditions, provide a clear and transparent pricing structure and their actual business address. This information should be posted on their website if they have one. A word to the wise: inventory clerks charge by space/area/room so make sure you read their charge schedule carefully. They use this mechanism to try to be fair, while set pricing is easier to understand, it usually means, for example, people with a standard small 2 bedroom flat would pay more for the service and those with a larger 2 bedroom properties pay less. If you have a standard two bedroom house you have a scheduled price, if you have an extra en-suite, garage, shed, utility room, extension, etc. these will incur additional charges as it will require the clerk to spend more time producing your report.
Ask to see a sample report, but remember that these items can be marketing products. I know of at least two major inventory providers which use one form of report as a marketing tool and another for actual reports. You should also be aware that a company might produce reports in several formats to suite different client needs. A further concern for the inventory provider is when providing actual reports for review, not one just made up, they will contain private information and are therefore confidential documents subject to the Data Protection Act.
What type of reports do they produce? This is important as differing firms and clerks include different information. For example, reports that contain inventory make check-in check-out in one document or separated documents for each task, maintenance schedules, assigning of responsibility. Also how much detail is included?
Description: wooden four panelled door painted white,
Condition: 1cm chip to lower left side on opening edge.
Description: white wooden door
Condition: chip at lower level.
Testimonials are a comfort, but need to be viewed in context. Think about it, if you are asked to provide testimonials would you give the details of the client you had last month who was unhappy with your service? What is most important is you need to know if there is a problem, how will they resolved it. To some extent, you can bypass being shepherded to the stories the provider wants you to hear by going to business directories such as Yell.com who have a section where customers leave feedback on the businesses that they have used. Google Business Places also have customer reviews on businesses in your area. Again you need to view this information in context.
A competent clerk should have been trained and certified by one of the governing bodies mentioned above and have at least six months experience in producing residential inventories. Another advantage would be any training or experience they may have gained as a tenant, landlord, estate/letting/management agent, etc. This is relevant when they compile a report so they have a better understanding of what might become an issue for a tenant, landlord or agent and are best placed to produce their report or provide their other services in such a way as to minimise the chances of disputes.
Summary of questions to ask:
Syd Lewis has been a private landlord for over 20 years, he is an accredited member of the National Landlords Association (NLA), Residential Landlords Association (RLA), Sponsor of the Good Landlords Campaign, a full member of the Association of Professional Inventory Providers (APIP) and a Certified Electrical Portable Appliance Tester (NIPIT). He is passionate about what he does which is providing residential inventory services, PAT testing and marketing floor plans for Agents, Landlords and Tenants. Inventories start from £56.00 to find out more see:-
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