Landlord Tenant Q&A

CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. Can you make some suggestions on preparing an Inventory and Condition form? Can I substitute pictures in place of a form if the tenant agrees?

A. Inventory and Condition forms are very important in our state. I cannot speak for other states, but here in Hawaii our Hawaii Revised Statues (HRS) Chapter 521-42 is very specific and states:

“Prior to the initial date of initial occupancy, the landlord shall inventor y the premises and make a written record detailing the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided. Duplicate copies of this inventor y shall be signed by the landlord and by the tenant and a copy given to each tenant. In an action arising under this section, the executed copy of the inventor y shall be presumed to be correct. If the landlord fails to make such an inventor y and written record, the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided, upon the termination of the tenancy shall be rebuttably presumed to be the same as when the tenant first occupied the premises.”

Pictures, because of the wording of the law, cannot replace a written format; they can be used to supplement a form, but not replace. Pictures are an excellent tool and some managers I know also use video. I suggest that you be very specific when describing items and avoid using the words good, average, and excellent. Stick to words that are less arbitrary or subject to interpretation. When describing carpets, state color, style, and whether there are stains, fading or not try to include what is not present as well as what is present. For example, no rust, no corrosion, no snags, no rips, no cracks etc. With regard to appliances, be detailed -list the brand, style, model, color, the date purchased (if available), and serial number. Say, for example, you only list “white refrigerator with one small dent”…then, what if the refrigerator that is left behind conforms with that description but is not your newer 22 cubic foot, side by side double door with ice maker model but an old 15 cubic foot white upright? If you have placed all CFL energy efficient bulbs in your home, state this along with the requirement that they must be replaced with like (same color and wattage) bulbs, especially if electricity is included in the rent.

Be sure to note cleanliness along with condition. Were the carpets professionally cleaned before the tenant moved in? And if so, then I would suggest requiring the tenant to have the carpets professionally cleaned at move-out and also to provide a receipt for the cleaning. Do the drains all run freely? Does the garbage disposal work properly? Drains and garbage disposal problems are the two most common items I have seen charged to a tenant; it is for everyone’s clarification that these items be accurately listed on an Inventory and Condition form.

As either part of or as a supplement to your Inventory and Condition form, I would suggest that you make a list of guidelines for maintaining the items in the home. For example, if the bathtubs are refinished, state the type of cleaners and cleaning material that may and may not be used. If you have stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, list the cleaners that can be used. Specific to granite countertops, indicate what can be done or not done on them and what type of products can or cannot be left on them, as citric fruits left on granite for extended periods of time can cause stains. If you have a shut off switch to the dishwasher, indicate where it is located.

Inventory and Condition forms are not just for the landlord or just for the tenant…they are for both parties. A fully completed form protects both parties against not only one side misrepresenting what was there, but also an honest lack of remembering accurately one, two, or three years later when a tenant is ready to vacate. Take your time and be very thorough…it is time well spent!

Locations Hawaii
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Kimo Smigielski, Broker-in-Charge
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