Inventory Clerks & Cleaning

By trekproperty, Mar 22 2019 10:19AM

I was interested to see the AIIC has removed all restrictions on inventory clerks involving themselves in the cleaning of properties, even those which they have cleaned themselves or are going to clean post check out, from the Code of Practice, Not only did they remove the restriction, but they didn’t bother to inform their members of the changes to the Code nor did they invite members to comment on the changes. I still believe that most inventory clerks regard cleaning and inventory work as a potential conflict of interest which is why ARLA and the AIIC had these restrictions in the first place. Nothing has altered in the lettings industry to justify the removal of these restrictions.

So why must they be kept apart? Firstly cleanliness is subjective. Different clerks inspecting the same property at the same time may differ on their interpretation of, and descriptions of, cleaning issues. The descriptions we use (Professional; Good domestic; average domestic,; acceptable standard etc) are all open to differing opions. I recall a tenant wanting the oven to be described as “filthy” on my check in report as I had described it as being “lightly stained throughout”. By her standards it may well have been filthy but I have seen filthy ovens and this wasn’t one. What we both agreed on was that it was not clean.

Secondly, and most importantly, impartiality is supposed to be a cornerstone of our profession. It is important that landlords, agents and tenants are confident that the inventory clerk attending any inspection is a neutral and unbiased party. This is even more so for tenants as the clerk attending their check out is usually appointed by the landlord or letting agent and they don’t have a say in the matter. So how would you as a tenant feel if you knew that the inventory clerk was going to be profiting from any of your cleaning oversights? Would you still regard the clerk as being an unbiased party? No of course not. Although the clerk may well be honest in his or her reporting the element of trust has been lost. In the event of a dispute, the tenant could point out to the adjudicator that the clerk had an interest in exaggerating the cleaning issues for their own personal gain. Solution? Keep the occupations apart.

Thirdly, inventory clerks are human. Although we try to resist, when we see a blunder in a rival’s inventory report, we cannot help smirking and slipping in a comment on the check out about the error even though it may be irrelevant to any potential tenant liability (Heat alarms incorrectly described as smoke alarms for example – guilty). If a clerk is preparing an inventory on a property that has been cleaned by a rival cleaning company the temptation to exaggerate that company’s cleaning oversights will be hard to resist. Solution? Keep the occupation apart!

It seems absurd that the AIIC would launch a petition for compulsory independent inventory reporting because it does not regard agents and landlords as impartial parties, but does not see the potential conflict of interest arising from its members clerks cleaning properties they are inspecting. The revised AIIC Code of practice requires members to declare, in writing, any potential conflict of interest. So any AIIC clerk attending a check out whose company is going to be doing the subsequent cleaning would have to declare this, in writing, to the out-going tenant. Is that going to happen? No it isn’t. Solution? Keep cleaning and inventory work apart.

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