News In Focus
Property Factors Bill introduced to Holyrood
A much-anticipated bill to impose a registration scheme and a statutory code of conduct on property factors has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament as a member's bill by Patricia Ferguson MSP.
The Property Factors (Scotland) Bill, which has attracted cross-party support, will make it an offence for a property factor to operate without being registered, and will introduce an accessible form of alternative dispute resolution.
The code of conduct would set minimum standards of practice expected of registered property factors, and afford greater protection for homeowners from rogue factors.
Disputes with homeowners would go before a new homeowner housing committee, which would have power to ensure compliance with the contract and minimum standards, and where appropriate, require the factor to made a compensatory award or refund to the homeowner. The committee would operate without parties being legally represented.
Ministers are currently consulting on a voluntary accreditation scheme for property managers and land maintenance companies, following an Office of Fair Trading investigation and recommendations which failed to back calls for a compulsory scheme.
However the bill has attracted cross-party support from 45 MSPs and supporters are optimistic that it will become law.
The bill was drafted by Govan Law Centre, whose principal solicitor Mike Dailly has campaigned with Ms Ferguson for several years for legislation to regulate property factoring in Scotland.
Ms Ferguson said: "This is a milestone in the campaign to regulate property factors, and to protect homeowners from the unscrupulous practices of those factors that have brought the whole industry into disrepute".
"It is two and half years since I launched a consultation on my proposal to require the registration of factors, which showed overwhelming support for legislation. Hopes were raised when the Office of Fair Trading carried out a study into Scottish property factors, but then dashed when they only recommended a voluntary scheme despite concluding that the system is not working well."
Mike Dailly said: "Property factors must be the only industry in Scotland who are virtually unlicensed and unregulated. When one third of your customers are unhappy with the service you provide it's time for a statutory solution. The Scottish Government are consulting on a voluntary accreditation scheme, but we've had self-regulation for centuries and it hasn't worked. The people of Scotland need a solution with legal teeth, and the bill provides that solution in a fair and measured way".
"By introducing a formal requirement on all factors to be registered in a national register of property factors, the Bill would ensure that minimum standards of practice were adhered to across Scotland. Individual homeowners would be able to rely on those minimum standards in their day to day dealings with their property factor, and in an extreme case a bad factor could be de-registered to prevent them causing ongoing consumer detriment".
Click here to access the bill.
- The bill was introduced on the same day as the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill, also drafted by Govan Law Centre, which seeks to amend the criminal law to protect "public-facing" workers from assault in Scotland.