As of the 31st January 2018 the Letting Agent Code of Practice is now in force and at any point, once they have exhausted a company’s own complaints resolution mechanisms and processes, a tenant or landlord could now take a Letting Agent to the First Tier Tribunal should they feel they have breached the new Code of Practice. In order to make retribution more accessible there is no fee to use the tribunal and legal representation is not required.
SCOTTISH AGENTS HAVE UNTIL 1ST OCT 2018…
Agents in Scotland have until the 1st October to Register with the Scottish Government (find out more here), however it would be sensible not to delay registration until the day as the registration process is quite detailed and requires a lot of information about their agency, their proof of client money and professional indemnity insurance as well as proof that the relevant people have the appropriate qualifications and no criminal convictions. Given that the (in our opinion) best provider of these qualifications is now booked up until January 2019 and given it takes 5 months to complete with 5 full days training and 3 written assignments, there is no time to be lost.
IF YOU DON’T REGISTER BEWARE…!
If an agent does not register by 1st October then they will be committing a criminal offence. Late payment penalties will be payable and possible prosecution. The fine for this could be £50,000 or 6 months in prison, or both. Even if an agent isn’t prosecuted, they will then be subjected to more rigorous checks. If an agency is struck off the register they will be unable to operate as an agency.
The Scottish Government will have 12 months to approve an application following registration and if they do not meet this deadline then the application will be tacitly approved.
In order to meet the Scottish Governments registration criteria, those principals involved in the letting agency work will need to have the relevant qualifications. (see here for who should need training and here in section 61 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014). Chapmans are ahead of the curve with Laura being one of the first agents in Scotland to achieve the Chartered Institute of Housing Level 3 Certificate in Letting and Managing Residential Property. The training covers the implications of the new Letting Agent Code of Practise, which sets out a framework for how an agent should conduct their Letting Agency business.
CODE OF PRACTICE…
The Code of Practice is a comprehensive framework which governs how a letting agent will cover all aspects of their work – from having special ring fenced client accounts, to holding PI and Client money insurance. It governs how they engage landlords, distance selling, covers new rules on marketing and adverting properties, scope of information provided to landlords and tenants, strict guidelines on discrimination, how we should be processing applications and much much more etc. It is not something that we, as good agents, have had concerns about, but it will prove quite a radical overhaul for small agencies, one man bands and those rogue agents out there who operate in a unprofessional manner.
If you would like any futher information then we are always happy to help.