Since 6th April 2007 all tenant's deposits (or bonds as they are more commonly referred to) must be paid into a Government approved scheme. This scheme will hold onto the deposit until the tenant moves out. If the landlord and the tenant agree on the condition of the property at the time of move out and agree on any possible deductions from the deposit to cover issues such as cleaning, then this can be done in a fairly straightforward manner. If however the landlord and tenant cannot agree about anything relating to the deposit and who gets what, then the Deposit protection Scheme that holds the deposit will decide.
What landlords must be aware of is that if an inventory has not been completed at the beginning of the tenancy to record the condition of the property then they will find it virtually impossible to make a claim against the tenant's deposit at the move out. This could potentially cost them several hundred pounds.
The Deposit Protection Scheme will require the landlord to prove their case in order to claim any of the deposit and will require a copy of the tenancy agreement, inventory, property inspection reports and move out reports. Without an inventory there is no evidence to support the landlord's claim as there will be nothing signed by the tenant to show the condition of the property when the tenant first moved in so there will be nothing to compare it against at move out.
A professionally prepared inventory with accompanying photographs is a must have. Note that it must be a professionally prepared one. Some examples of inventories we have seen are frankly not worth the paper they are written on.
And don't be fooled into thinking that if you property is not furnished you don't need one, cleaning, poorly re-decorated walls, gardens left in poor condition are three of the biggest issues that are highliughted at the end of a tenancy and with all of these issues a property being furnished or unfurnished is irrelevant. Our advice is never take the chance, we find that when we conduct move out reports issues are at a minimum when we have conducted an inventory at the beginning of the tenancy.