I hear this a lot and it is a common misconception. I understand why landlords think this when you consider the word 'inventory', its quite misleading.
Anyone naturally thinks that an inventory is just a list of items, when in fact the inventory covers so much more. If we apply the full title of the report 'Inventory of schedule and condition' it starts to make more sense.
For instance, furniture only equates to between 10 and 20 percent of the content of a well prepared inventory of schedule and condition for a furnished property. This then begs the question as to what the remaining 80/90 percent consists of.
Lets first look at the purpose of the report. The report is prepared to protect both tenant and landlord to avoid a dispute at tenancy end. The report must be thorough enough to cover the defects, items, furniture, appliances, cleanliness, decorative order and the condition of all these parts at tenancy start. This way we have a fair representation of how the property was taken for comparison when preparing the check out report.
If the inventory did not cover everything from a lampshade, wall colour, carpets along with the toggle on a pull cord, then we could not mention these items within the check out report if they were not commented upon within the inventory. As we know, if any of these items were damaged, then the cost of repair can be high. If the property requires a full clean, then this can also amount to three figures. This is when a landlord will be thankful that they invested in a well prepared report.
In terms of the tenant, a well prepared inventory is protection to avoid any issues at tenancy end and the delay in their deposit return. It is not uncommon for a landlord to forget the exact condition of their property once a year or so has passed. It is quite easy to forget that a wall was gouged or the handle on their oven was loose or cracked. This is when the waters can become muddied. The tenant knew these issues were present when they moved in, however, they have no way of proving it otherwise, and the landlord truly believes they were caused by the tenant and a dispute ensues.
Of course, the back stop is the tenancy dispute service, which will ultimately protect the tenant, especially if there is no inventory report, however, the process causes unintentional and avoidable delay. If there had been a detailed inventory, then the tenant could have avoided the situation.