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Landlords - is your letting agency part of the Register of Letting Agents?

Fri 07 Dec 2018

We previously looked at why it’s vital for landlords to work with a compliant letting agent, just a short while after the deadline for the submission of applications to the Scottish Letting Agent Register had passed.

Having submitted our application with plenty of time to spare, we recently received our registration for the new arrangement – which means landlords can rest assured that, when they are using Letting Solutions, they are using an agency that is playing entirely by the book.

What is the Register of Letting Agents?

As a quick recap, the Register of Letting Agents is a list run by Scottish Ministers which ensures that every letting agent is suitable to do the job and has met minimum training requirements.

Those carrying out letting agency work who aren’t on the register, and who didn’t submit an application to the register by October 1 2018, are committing a criminal offence by doing so. The potential punishments are hefty, with a possible fine of up to £50,000, up to six months imprisonment or both.

While there are some exemptions, the vast majority of those carrying out letting agency work will need to be part of the register.

Minimum training requirements

As part of the application process, we had to prove that our business met the qualification and training requirements. This meant ensuring that everyone in the business who needed to had received the correct training.

Those needing to be trained as part of the registration process had to have a relevant qualification covering vital features of letting agency work, at (or at the equivalent of) Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 6 or above.

What’s more, those who already had a qualification – but one which was over three years old - also needed to have completed additional training on letting agency work. This needed to include at least 15 hours of formal training – such as courses, conferences, webinars and lectures – and 5 hours of informal training, which could include reading and writing articles on letting agency work, informal teaching for others, informal learning within a company and work shadowing and coaching.

The people who needed the qualification plus any necessary training were the person holding the most senior position in the firm’s management structure (unless they weren’t involved in day-to-day running of letting agency work) and every person ‘directly concerned with managing and supervising the day-to-day running of the organisation’s letting agency work’.

Understanding the Code of Practice

An equally important part of the process was proving that Letting Solutions had put measures in place to meet the requirements of the Letting Agent Code of Practice, which came into force on January 31 2018. It was also important that all staff understood and implemented correctly what is set out in the Code of Practice.

This includes written procedures in place for processes such as handling complaints, handling client money, managing repairs and maintenance, managing the end of a tenancy and collecting and handling rent on a landlord’s behalf.

Letting agents must adhere to the standards set out in the Code of Practice, which is laid out in full here

The Code outlines that letting agents must have at least one separate and dedicated client bank account to hold client money, as well as holding both professional indemnity insurance and client money protection.

Failure to do so could lead to tenants and landlords applying to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) – effectively Scotland’s housing court – to resolve disputes.

A ‘fit and proper person’ test

Like owners of football clubs, those applying to be on the register had to prove to Scottish Ministers that they are ‘fit and proper’ to carry out letting agency work. 

For those applying on behalf of a company, a ‘fit and proper person’ test was conducted on a number of people in the business as well as the business itself. This included the person who holds the most senior position in the organisation’s management structure, anyone who owns 25% or more of the business and any other person or business who is (or will be) directly involved in the control or governance of the company’s letting agency work.

Certain information was also required as part of the registration process, including type of organisation, information about the people in charge of the business, whether the company belongs to an industry or professional body, and whether anyone in the business has been convicted of certain offences.

Improving standards

Currently, only we and one other agent in West Lothian have been awarded registration. Being part of the register can offer our landlord and tenant clients the reassurance that we are fully compliant, adhering to the Code of Practice and meeting the necessary minimum training requirements.

The whole point of the recent changes by the Scottish Government is to strengthen the regulation of the letting agent industry in Scotland, in turn ensuring that the private rented sector – which is playing an increasingly large role in housing people – is professional, well-managed and providing the good-quality, habitable homes that local communities need.

The changes help to raise standards across the board, weed out rogue operators and build a more efficient and effective private rented sector which works for tenants, landlords and agents alike.

Compliance and good practice are crucial factors in all industries, but particularly so in the lettings world – where building trustworthy, mutually beneficial relationships is so important. So we’re delighted to have been awarded registration to prove our credentials as an agency committed to raising standards and providing the best possible service to our customers.

To discover more about what Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, can offer you, please get in touch with us on 01506 425693.

We also provide instant online valuations to give you an idea of how much your rental property could be worth in the current marketplace.

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