In the post Tenant Fee Ban era, landlords and managing agents can charge no Fees for their services, hence it is imperative that all loopholes where there is a possibility of ‘losing’ money are closed. So, it is essential to have good Inventories & Condition Reports at the start of the tenancy.
If an Inventory ends up in an Arbitrations situation, then the key element is – The Objective & Subjective evidence…
When completing an inventory report, The Inventory Clerk, agent or inventory professional is effectively suggesting the condition of the property and the items that are included therein and in doing so are providing their ‘subjective’ and or ‘objective’ opinion.
The definition of objective is… not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
The definition of subjective is… existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective).
An objective piece of information, therefore, needs either to be the whole truth and at least be unbiased or balanced, whereas a subjective point of view is biased because it is either not the complete picture or it is merely a viewpoint or expression of feelings.
Each time an Inventory Professional describes the condition of an item in the inventory, they are suggesting the truth in a subjective manner, as the condition is solely their biased opinion at that point in time.
If each item described is well pictured or filmed in focus, then that subjective suggestion can now be proven on balance of the extra evidence or another person can come to their own conclusion based on the presented series of opinion and proof, which together will form an objective presentation of fact.
As it stands; inventory professionals do not have the opportunity to attend arbitration, are not able to explain or discuss what their understanding or experience of the undefined words means , so it must be proven objectively in the inventory presentation.
Arbitration results are made on the balance of probability so an impartial, subjective opinion carries more weight in this resolution process than if in a Criminal Court, but it will never carry as much weight as an objective fact.
Objective facts will make the decision process so much easier for the arbitrator if it needs to reach them at all.
The burden of proof is often lies with the landlord as in the statement below:
“the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.”
So what is the difference between succeeding on the balance of probabilities and failing on the balance of probabilities?
If the evidence is such that the arbitrator can say ‘we think it more probable than not’ the burden is discharged, but if the probabilities are equal it is not.
Expressing that in percentage terms, if an arbitrator concludes that it is 50% likely that the landlord’s case is not right, then the landlord will lose.
By contrast, if the arbitrator concludes that it is 51% likely that the landlord’s case is right then the landlord will win.
What should an inventory be?
An inventory should be able to prove and or disprove a claim if it is to be deemed impartial. It is often the case, that we see a damaged item subjectively described and the description objectively proven by means of a picture showing the extent of the damage.
Impartiality should be the key aim of the person preparing the Inventory…
They should state only the facts ensuring that they signpost where they are and use a consistent method of referencing the size using everyday items such as a ruler, a pen or more practically your index finger in the photograph or video caption of the issue. This will allow the tenant / landlord / adjudicator to ascertain the size of the issue whereas the description will indicate where it is located at point of inventory process.
Landlords, be warned that NOT having an Inventory in place can make it very difficult to recover any funds from the Tenant’s Deposit in the event of serious damage caused by them. We can offer Inventory Service as part of our Fully Managed Service, so do get in touch if you have any queries.