CaptJon » Staggeringly letting agents aren't regulated and will continue to financially rape people until they are.
Make sure at least they are registered under the Estate Agent/Letting Agent Ombudsman scheme. This gives you some come back.
I can't help but feel that these professional inventories are sold on scare tactics.
They are but it's important. An inventory should include a detailed list of all the items in the property, recording the condition etc. of everything, especially if it's furnished. This should be backed up with photo's to avoid any disputes and needs to be done on move in and out. The tenant needs to agree to it.
As for some scare tactics... we had tenants steal pots, replace a sofa bed, have dogs and cats in a house which was no pets, break a window, break a floorboard and a few other things. The agent took such a piss poor inventory that we could not pin anything on the final tenant as the inventories basically listed the house as present, with rooms.
The good news is you can do it all yourself, you can get contracts online (or someone here will send you one), do the inventory and using some of the online agents (fixed fee) find tenants. You can also field the calls and send out your tradesmen to fix things or do it yourself. We have had move in fees as low as £300 for finding & checking we handled the rest.
If you have the time then it can be done, if you are more than an hour away it gets much harder.