Hundreds of letting agents in Scotland are suspected to be trading illegally after ignoring a call to sign up to an official register.
A new law which came into force on 1st October 2018 requires all letting agents in the country to join the Scottish Letting Agent Register and follow their Letting Agent Code of Practice.
Any agent in Scotland currently carrying out letting agency work was required to submit an application to the Scottish Letting Agent register last week. However, despite a flurry of late applications, less than half of the 1,700 businesses identified as letting agents had failed to file an application.
Anyone who has not applied is trading illegally, says Mike Campbell, director of the Council of Letting Agents in Scotland.
“It’s an inevitability of human nature that some agents will miss the deadline,” he said.
“For example if an agent has not obtained a relevant qualification then no number of reminders will either prompt them to apply or more unlikely magically meet the requirements in the available time before the registration deadline.”
To register, it is now mandatory for letting agents to have experience and hold professional qualifications in the lettings industry to occupy key roles in an agency. For example, The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) offers an accredited course resulting in a qualification which meets the new Scottish agent’s registration requirements. It comprises of three modules, each with a test at the end, and a final end test.
This qualification is accredited by the Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE), a national awarding organisation. Candidates who successfully complete the course will be awarded an NCFE certificate.
In addition, they will be required to show that their business complies with client money protection rules and that they have adequate professional indemnity insurance such as that offered by Hamilton Fraser, here.
The cost of a three-year licence starts from £765.
The council’s sister organisation, the Scottish Association of Landlords, is urging landlords, tenants and letting agents to report any lawbreakers.
The penalty for illegal trading is a fine of up to £50,000, six month’s in jail or both.
SLA chief executive John Blackwood said: ““Campaigning for increased professionalisation of letting agents is something the private rented sector has fought strongly for over the years and we are delighted it is finally coming into force. Prior to this, almost anyone could put up a sign in a high street, call themselves a letting agent and sell their services to unsuspecting landlords and tenants.
“However, for this regulation to be effective, everyone involved must be quick to check and challenge a letting agent they do not believe is compliant with the law.”
The new rules aim to improve standards in the letting industry in Scotland, to make sure that agents are aware of the letting and safety rules and regulations and are proficient in handling clients’ personal data and monies paid to them by tenants’ on landlord client’s behalf.
The Scottish government is advising tenants and landlords to check that their agent is now registered in the scheme.
In England, agent’s registration has been resisted up to now on the premise that it restricts free trade and it is a cost to the taxpayer, relying instead on voluntary redress schemes and codes of practice. Despite this, inroads are slowly being made, with complaint and compulsory arbitration, plus client money protection (CMP) schemes.
Register here: https://lettingagentregistration.gov.scot
Read the Scottish letting agent code of practice – here
Access the Regulation of Letting Agents Monitoring Compliance and Enforcement Framework – here