Scottish letting agents must join a new register and comply with a statutory Code of Practice under laws that came into force yesterday.
The new rules aim to improve standards in the Scottish private rental sector and empower tenants.
Scottish letting agents are required to join a register and key individuals within agencies must meet a minimum level of training.
Should they fail to meet the standards expected, they can be removed from the register, preventing them from operating as a letting agent.
Landlords and tenants can use the Code to challenge poor practice and, if necessary, enforce it through the new First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
The Code sets out standards that must be met in how Scottish letting agents deliver their services. It includes specific requirements on how clients’ money should be handled.
The Scottish Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, comments: “We are committed to ensuring the highest quality private rented sector, which empowers tenants. These reforms, and the need for the sector to meet key standards and expectations, are an important step in achieving our ambitions.
“Many letting agents already do a great deal to improve standards and inspire confidence amongst landlords and tenants. The introduction of the Code means a level playing field for all, and ensures clarity on rights, responsibilities and expectations.”
He continues: “The private rented sector provides a place to call home for hundreds of thousands of people – they deserve the necessary standards and protections to find and keep that home. The reforms we have introduced in private renting are the biggest changes for a generation, and will deliver significant improvements, benefiting tenants and landlords.”
David Cox, the Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark (the Association of Residential Letting Agents), also responds to the new rules: “The Register for Letting Agents in Scotland has now opened, marking a new era in professionalisation of the industry in Scotland. In accordance with the Code of Practice, which also comes into force [yesterday], agents now have eight months to familiarise themselves with the Code and complete any training that needs to be done to fulfil the criteria. Once the deadline for applications has passed on 30th September, it will be a criminal offence to carry out letting agency work in Scotland if you’re not on the register.
“This is a watershed moment for the industry. We have long campaigned for the regulation of letting agents both north and south of the border, and are pleased the Scottish Government has picked up the mantle and introduced minimum standards. The requirements, mirroring ARLA Propertymark’s membership criteria, will hopefully drive up standards in the industry, improve the quality of property management for tenants, and eliminate those rogue and criminal agents who bring the industry into disrepute.”