Letting agents: prepare to register
It is time for letting agent businesses to prepare for the new registration and training requirements coming into force next year
The Scottish Government’s Letting Agent Regulations are comprised of two core elements: a register to which all businesses who conduct letting agency work must sign up, and a code of practice to which all “letting agents” must adhere.
The rationale behind the regulations, which come into effect on 31 January 2018, is to raise industry standards and offer greater protection and assurances for those in the rented housing sector.
It would be difficult to dispute that the intentions of the regulations are good and in the public interest, but in stakeholder discussions with the Scottish Government the Law Society of Scotland has been vocal in questioning whether the additional requirements are justified or will add anything of value to an already regulated legal profession.
Some concessions have been granted; for example, the fit and proper test, which has necessarily been passed by all Scottish solicitors, will fulfil this requirement of the Letting Agent Regulations. In order to comply with the regulations, Scottish solicitors will not be required to do any CPD over and above the Society’s requirements – although a proportion of a solicitor's total CPD requirements must be relevant to letting agency work.
The fact remains, however, that firms who “manage” the rental of a property, meaning that they collect rent, perform inspections and arrange repairs and maintenance, should be aware of the requirements and timescales in order that they can be properly prepared and compliant with the regulations.
The process of registering might take a few hours of information gathering and online administration and there will be a registration fee, the value of which is yet to be confirmed; but it is the new training requirements which make the greatest demands on affected businesses’ time and resources.
Employees who are required to register must have achieved a Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, level 6, or equivalent, before their business can submit an application. Currently there are only two programmes, the Propertymark qualifications and the LETWELL programme, which the Scottish Government guidance describes as leading to an acceptable qualification. Applications to register must be submitted before 31 October 2018 and there are hefty penalties for failing to do so.
While the Scottish Government continues to work with Registers of Scotland to build an intuitive and workable online register, key stakeholders including the Society, continue to give feedback in an effort to deliver effective implementation and communication plans.
At this stage there are many details still “to be confirmed”, but businesses who suspect that they are affected should take immediate steps to establish their requirement to register and get moving on meeting the training requirements. There’s a lot to be done before 30 September 2018.
You can find a guide to letting agent registration on the Scottish Government website, and you can contact Gillian Alexander in the Society’s Professional Practice team by email, GillianAlexander@lawscot.org.uk, if you have any additional questions.