A new regulation framework has been launched by the Scottish Government with the purpose of providing clear information and supporting compliance among letting agents, as well as outlining the powers of Scottish ministers in enforcing the new standards.
The new framework will apply to: Those required to apply to join the Register of Letting Agents; determining an application to join the Register; and of registered letting agents.
The proposed code of practice also includes:
• A mandatory register for letting agents with an associated ‘fit and proper’ person test;
• A training requirement that must be met before an applicant can be admitted to the register;
• A statutory code of practice all letting agents must follow;
• A way for tenants and landlords to resolve complaints against letting agents for breaches of this Code through a new specialist First-tier Tribunal;
• Powers for Scottish Ministers to obtain information and of inspection to monitor compliance and enforce regulatory requirements.
Regulations for Applicants and Registered Letting Agents
For applicants to the register, the framework also makes clear the range of powers that Scottish ministers can enforce, notably to refuse or the removal of letting agent registration, which can prevent agencies from undertaking work in the future. Ministers also have the power to issue a refusal notice at any point in the process.
For registered agents that do not meet the code of practice, ministers will work with the letting agent to resolve any issues that have arisen, requiring them to submit an improvement plan to ensure greater compliance.
In the event a registered letting agent refuses to work with or comply with the framework, government ministers can make an application to the Tribunal in relation to non-compliance with the Code of Practice, including;
• Take action to remove them from the Register of Letting Agents; any removal will be noted on the public register for twelve months.
• Report them to Police Scotland and any other relevant authorities (this will apply to unregistered letting agents, or agencies who still carry out work after being issued a refusal notice).
Any unregistered agents applying to the register will be subject to a late application fee. If the unregistered agent refuses compliance with the framework, they will be reported to Police Scotland. Undertaking letting agency work without being registered is a criminal offence, liable on conviction to a fine of up to £50,000, up to 6 months imprisonment or both.