Comment: Scottish letting register will help agencies thrive

The new legislation will make it easier for landlords and tenants to make a more informed choice, says Coyle. Picture: Simon Williams
The new legislation will make it easier for landlords and tenants to make a more informed choice, says Coyle. Picture: Simon Williams
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The official Scottish Letting Agent Register was launched by the Scottish Government in October. By mid-November around 180 letting agents had been registered out of an approximate 850 who submitted their applications prior to the 1 October registration deadline.

The Scottish Government is now working to process all remaining applications and we look forward to the completed register being used to promote Scotland’s approved professional letting agencies and help to protect landlords and tenants alike.

From October it became illegal for someone to carry out letting agency work unless they have a letting agency registration number or have applied to be on the register. The penalties are substantial for those in breach.

This applies to everyone associated with property-related work, not just letting agents. Applicants must meet strict criteria before being added to the register. Staff must be professionally qualified and pass the “fit and proper person” test. Client money held by the agent (both landlords’ and tenants’) must be held in a ringfenced and insured separate client funds account which is audited annually.

Most importantly, the agent must abide by the letting agent code of practice. All good agencies were in compliance with these requirements long before 1 October, but it is concerning that only around half of Scotland’s estimated 1,750 letting agents had applied to be registered by the deadline.

At Cullen Property we welcome this new legislation in our industry, which has previously had low barriers to entry, allowing some unethical operators to exist. The register and code of practice will help to ensure that professional agents who are working hard to deliver the best possible service and invest in their teams and processes become more prominent. This, in turn, will make it much easier for landlords and tenants to make a more informed choice as to where to place their business or rent a property, and ensure that their money is adequately protected.

A letting agency is often more about the people than the properties; landlords and tenants need to know they can trust their agent. The majority of our staff already hold professional property qualifications, as we consider these essential in our industry to ensure we operate at optimum customer service levels.

We also recognise the importance of having effective and efficient systems in place to help review and continually improve our processes and procedures, while keeping an eye on innovative developments that benefit our customers and our team.

Although the newly introduced rules may be viewed by some as yet another legislative hoop, we only see the benefits to all parties and the enhancement of our industry’s reputation to the wider public.

- Steve Coyle is managing director of Cullen Property