‘Shelter’ is one of the basic needs of a human being. Malfeasance or carelessness from the part of letting agents detrimentally affects the satisfaction of this need of many. It is in this context that Scotland has introduced a legislation to regulate the practice of letting agents.
The Letting Agent Code of Practice (Scotland) Regulations 2016 will come into force from 31st January 2018. This legislation aims to improve the quality of the private rental sector, reduce malpractices by letting agents, and empower tenants.
As the name of the statute suggests, it describes the code of conduct that must be followed by the letting agents in Scotland. All the letting agents in Scotland are expected to comply with these regulations from the date of enforcement. Also, all the letting agents in Scotland are required to register their names in the Register of Letting Agents which will be maintained by the Scottish government. Non-compliance with the registration requirement would result in fines less than or equal to £50,000 and imprisonment for a period of not more than 6 months. Further, post the enforcement of the regulations, top officials of letting agencies will be qualified to remain in their positions only if they possess at least the lowest levels of training as mandated by the statute.
The statute creates an obligation on the letting agents to have Professional Indemnity Insurance and Client Money Protection. Both the landlords and the tenants have been accorded the locus standi to challenge letting agents who do not comply with these regulations at the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
Kevin Stewart, the Housing Minister of Scotland said the following about the Letting Agent Code of Practice (Scotland) Regulations 2016:
"We are committed to ensuring the highest quality private rented sector, which empowers tenants. Our framework for regulation and the need for the sector to meet key standards and expectations through the code is an important step in achieving our ambitions.
Many letting agents already do a great deal to continuously 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.
For many people, private renting provides a place to call home, and they deserve the necessary standards and protections to find and keep that home. With six months until the code comes into force letting agents must take steps now to be ready for these new ways of working."