Q.  My tenants have just moved out and left my property in a dreadful state, not only have they not cleaned the apartment, but they have also left behind various pieces of old furniture that I now have to try and arrange to have removed. I am now in a battle with them with respect to their deposit return, they are refusing to accept any deductions whatsoever on the basis that it wasn’t clean when they moved in and the furniture was already there. I am furious as I had a professional pre-tenancy clean carried out prior to the them moving in and the furniture is definitely not mine. Clearly, they are just trying to pull a fast one. The deposit is registered in a scheme, so I am thinking of turning it over to them to adjudicate now but I have one small problem, I never had an inventory taken before they moved in. is there anything my scheme will be able to do without this?

A.  Sadly too many landlords like yourself regard an Inventory check in as an unnecessary expense. Unfortunately, as you are now finding out, it is quite to the contrary it is absolutely paramount that you have one carried out prior to move in to prove the condition of the property before you hand over the keys. The report is carried out by a professional inventory clerk – a third party so neutral and non-biased toward one party or the other, both parties then receive a copy of the report and any discrepancies from either side can then be flagged and recorded as a note for when the tenancy comes to an end. Tenancy deposit schemes rely wholly on the inventory check in and the check out reports when adjudicating a case that has been referred to them because a landlord and tenant cannot reach a satisfactory decision on deductions themselves. Without these reports they are unable to do their job as they are powerless to make decisions on a he says she says situation which is clearly what we have here. There have been a number of decisions by adjudicators under existing schemes that show unless you follow these rules there is little to no chance of recovering anything out of the deposit to cover the damage. Likewise Judges in small claims courts take the same view if such a case is bought to them without the landlord following the basic rules and providing an inventory. Sadly, it looks like you will have no option but to release the deposit back to the tenants in full and take this as a harsh lesson for future tenancies.