The Letting Agent Code of Practice Regulations come in to law in January 2018 and with significant work to do, many agents will already struggle to be ready in time. Regulation acknowledges the importance of housing in society and the letting agent’s role, and is intended to ensure that every agent involved in lettings has the right skills to do the job and meets the minimum training standards.
Implementation includes the introduction of a Letting Agent Register, and it will be a criminal offence to carry out letting agency work in Scotland if you aren’t on the register – with the possibility of fines of up to £50,000 and prison sentences of up to 6 months for those convicted. All of those applying to be on the register will need to meet standards as laid out in a ‘fit and proper person test’. Where landlords or tenants claim that agents are not fulfilling their obligations as stated in the Code they will be able to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) to resolve a dispute.
Put in to law by resolution of the Scottish Parliament in 2016, the Code of Practice is introduced with the intention of protecting landlords and tenants and eradicating poor quality housing, stating that it will “help raise standards (where this is needed), and help build a more effective private rented sector that meets the needs of tenants, landlords and letting agents”.
Regulation addresses obligations for individuals employed in the industry along with wider obligations for agencies; following introduction all agencies will need to ensure relevant staff are qualified, ensure that staff understand and follow the Code of Practice, hold money in a dedicated client account and belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme and hold professional indemnity insurance.
Every individual involved in managing properties will need to have achieved an SCQF Level 6 or above qualification within the last three years. So far Propertymark Qualifications (formerly NFoPP Awarding Body and sister organisation of ARLA Propertymark) is one of only two training providers who look set to be approved by the Scottish Government. The Propertymark Qualifications Level 6 Technical Award in Residential Lettings and Property Management, already widely respected among staff and employers across Scotland is a practical hands on qualification, ensuring that meeting the training requirements is not a waste of time.
Agents who achieved an SCQF Level 6 qualification more than three years ago will need to provide evidence of relevant, quality top up training.
Daryl McIntosh of ARLA, feels the regulatory framework will be a benefit to the industry “The Scottish Government want to ensure the Private Rented Sector in Scotland is professional and credible. This should provide peace of mind and security to both landlords and tenants alike”.
ARLA worked closely with the Scottish Government to ensure the coming measures are practical, workable and serve landlords, agents and tenants effectively. Daryl continues: “Agents now need to implement a realistic timetable for training to ensure they meet the requirements come the commencement of the register.”
“While it’s essential that all letting agents are professionals offering high standards of service, achieving a qualification should never be a box ticking exercise. Completing the right qualification drives your credibility and equips you with tools to meet the challenges ahead.”