The Scottish Government has issued the draft Housing Bill. The Bill covers a wide range of issues but one of the most significant is the plan for letting agent regulation in Scotland.
The Bill proposes a register of letting agents. Agents will be required to apply to be entered into the register and will only be admitted if deemed to be fit and proper to carry out letting agency work.
When looking into whether an applicant is fit and proper, the Scottish Ministers can take the following factors into account:-
- criminal offences involving fraud, dishonesty, violence, drugs, firearms or of a sexual nature
- unlawful discrimination
- breach of any law relating to housing, landlord and tenant or debt
- failure to comply with the Letting Agent Code of Practice
The Letting Agent Code of Practice will be issued by the Government in due course and there will no doubt be a consultation regarding its content.
Each agent who registers in Scotland will receive a registration number which must be used in any dealings they have with landlords and tenants. Registration will last for a period of 3 years after which agents will have to apply for renewal.
If an agent operates unregistered:-
- it will be a criminal offence and they could face a prison sentence or hefty fine; and
- they cannot charge the landlord or tenant for any work carried out.
It will however be a defence if the agent can show they had a ?reasonable excuse? for acting without registration.
Landlords and tenants will also have the power to apply to the new First Tier Tribunal which will deal with private rented sector actions in Scotland currently dealt with by the Sheriff Court.? They can apply if they believe an agent has acted in breach of the Code of Practice. Agents could be subject to enforcement orders issued by the Tribunal, similar to those issued by the PRHP, and could face criminal charges if they fail to comply with these.
The Government?s aim is to weed out the rogue agents in Scotland who give the rest of the industry a bad name. The hope is to restore confidence with robust regulation.
It should be noted that the Bill is merely in its draft stage and is not yet law and there is a chance that it may change over the coming months. Please get in touch with our LetLaw team if you would like to discuss the proposals.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles, www.freedigitalphotos.net