A trade body is warning letting agents and landlords of the need to have detailed evidence to support any deduction made to tenants' deposits.
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, the UK’s largest membership organisation for independent clerks, is making the call following a recent Bristol court case where a group of six student tenants claimed back in excess of £750 of deductions made by their letting agent.
The six took letting agency Digs to court after the firm - acting on behalf of a landlord client - informed the tenants that £756 would be deducted from their deposit to cover cleaning and reprinting.
One of the tenants - Ed Straw - disputed the deductions and took Digs to court, using photographic evidence to support his case. Digs was subsequently ordered to repay the deductions in full, plus interest and court costs.
"It's clear from this instance that tenants are becoming increasingly savvy and persistent - they won't put up with deposit deductions that they feel are unjust," says AIIC chair Patricia Barber.
"Although it is only a minority, those agents and landlords who do charge for things they can't prove should think twice about this practice. Alongside being immoral, it could cause financial and reputational damage to a business."
The AIIC highlights the tenants' use of photographic evidence to prove that the property was cleaner by the end of the tenancy than it was at the start and that a full repaint had not taken place."This is why independently compiled inventories are so important for landlords, agents and tenants" Barber explains.
"Photo inventories allow all parties to make a fair comparison of the property's contents and condition at the beginning and end of the tenancy. If the offending letting agency had provided a detailed inventory to back up their deductions, it's highly likely this case would not have gone to court" she adds.
Barber claims that a comprehensively and independently compiled inventory reduces the chances of a deposit dispute and can provide peace of mind for both sides of the rental transaction.