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Just in case: a renter's guide to taking inventory
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Just in Case: A Renter’s Guide to Taking Inventory

Mar 13th, 2015

When you hear the words “renters” and ‘inventory” used in tandem with one another, chances are one of two documents is being referenced.

The first is an inventory of the appliances, furnishings, and decor in your apartment at the time of move-in. What works and what doesn’t? What’s marked up and what isn’t? This is the inventory that plays a factor in whether or not your rental deposit is returned to you when you move out. It’s often called an inventory-and-condition form.

The second is an inventory of everything you own and store in your apartment. This is the list that corresponds to your renters insurance, and it’s what we’re here to talk about today. Why is it important to take stock of your belongings? How do you take inventory? How do you back up that inventory? Here are some answers to these questions and more.

Take Inventory ASAP

No matter how slim you think the likelihood of anything happening to you, the possibility your apartment could be burgled, flooded, or damaged by fire (knock on wood) isn’t something to ignore. Take out a renters insurance policy, as well as inventory of your apartment as soon as possible.

One Room at a Time

The easiest way to ensure you don’t miss anything is to complete the process one room at a time. Create an apartment inventory spreadsheet and segment it by room. Slowly and thoroughly, document everything in each room that has any real monetary value. If you start to experience inventory fatigue or feel pressed for time because of pending engagements, take a break. Apartment inventory is not something that needs to be done all in one go.

Be Detailed

As you take inventory of your apartment, take special note of all electronics, artwork, antiques, and expensive appliances. If an object has a specific make, model, or year, include it in your description. Record serial numbers for any belongings that have them too.

Ideally, you’ll have receipts for most of your valuables. Locate them, and make copies. When your inventory is complete, back it up and make a few physical copies. Store one copy in a safe-deposit box and another in a safe place at work or with a confidant.

Photograph Your Items

In the event the unthinkable does happen, photographic evidence of your valuables will help immensely during the claims filing process. Take individual pictures of all valuable items. Group less valuable items, like clothes and everyday dishware, together. And, for good measure, take photographs of each room in your home.

Keep Inventory Up-to-Date

As you buy, sell, or replace items in your apartment, remember to make corresponding changes to your inventory. If you get a new TV, for example, record the make, model, and serial number on your inventory spreadsheet immediately. Maintaining an up-to-date list will help you settle claims faster and receive fuller compensation for stolen or damaged items.

The importance of taking inventory of your apartment cannot be overstated. Thankfully, keeping an up-to-date list of your belongings is easier today than it’s ever been before. There are several apps that can help you record, organize, and update your inventory. And thanks to the proliferation of digital photography, compiling a library of photos is cheap and easy. Hopefully you’ll never actually have to use your apartment inventory, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Do you have any tips for making apartment inventory a simple, stress-free process? Share them in the comments!

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