Smartphone Apps - Are they the holy grail for inventories?
Tuesday 12th June 2012
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) has investigated several smartphone apps for preparing inventories and has found that many apps they have their merits, but can only be as a good as the person inputting the information.
Some apps do not allow any flexibility to enable the user to format the detail on the report. An inventory is by its nature a very detailed document. Short statements and lists of items are not good enough for use as firm evidence in any dispute. Speed and perceived efficiency is often rated as more important than full detail in inventory production.
AIIC’s research shows that inventory clerks, landlords or agents that that use smartphone apps do not always find them faster than traditional methods. For a busy inventory company, carrying out several new inventory compilations each day, smartphone apps may not fulfil their needs. Other disadvantages of smartphone apps are their cost. Most companies charge a fee for downloading the app, then a separate fee -- usually around £5 per report - to store inventories and check out reports. Another fee is charged each time the clerk wants to access their report, for amendments etc.
However, smartphone aps can be an excellent choice for landlords and agents. Smartphones are reactive and adaptable. An inventory or report can be input and emailed instantly to both the clerk’s main office and the client. Apps make insertion of photographs fast and easy and whilst the AIIC does not recommend that inventories are top-heavy with photographic content, the inclusion of relevant photographic evidence is extremely useful as an illustration of a particular item, or area. Inclusion of photographs is also a good marketing tool, making an inventory and check-out report appear more attractive to the client.
Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC comments: “Smartphone apps automatically date and timed photographs and embed them into the document, saving time spent at the property and back at their office. Smartphones are a popular tool and user friendly and with so many apps to choose from, clerks are spoilt for choice! Smartphones are easy to carry - less equipment per job, negating the need for separate dictaphones and digital cameras. Everything you need is in one nice neat little unit - Smartphones have a multitude of uses, many of which are vital to a working clerk.
“Photographs taken via a Smartphone need to show really fine detail - the sort of problems that occur most frequently on a check-out, such as small chips and scratches in sinks and baths, stains on carpets and scratches and damage to doors and woodwork. More often than not, the photographs submitted in inventories are too small and hence make it extremely difficult to see detail. Any photographs need to be of a reasonable size, so that the damage can be actually seen clearly.”
An inventory that relies heavily on photographs will be of little use in a dispute. In fact, there is no point in producing hundreds of photographs – inventories like these just do not provide enough detail. Photography and video are great for large areas of damage such as carpet burns, serious damage to worktops and interior décor etc.
However, in some tenancy dispute cases the adjudicators are likely to reject some smartphone-based inventories, if they cannot deliver the level of detail required. The inevitable result is that the landlord can lose hundreds of pounds in lost cases.
Without an accurate and properly detailed inventory, a landlord has no evidence to prove that the property has been damaged in any way during the tenancy and therefore will find it almost impossible to withhold any deposit money from the tenants.
The good news is that some landlords and agents are producing some excellent inventories with the aid of smartphone apps – they have the right balance of detail, supported by photography and video. There is no doubt that the role of technology in inventory production is here to stay, bringing big benefits of time-saving and improved efficiency. But a few words of caution – the devil is the detail!
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Editorial Contact Details - Rosalind Renshaw