Letting agent regulation (information for landlords)
The Letting Agent Code of Practice (the Code) began on 31 January 2018.
This is a set of rules that all letting agents must follow to make sure they give a good service to landlords and tenants.
The Code explains the minimum standards a letting agent must meet when:
- dealing with landlords
- marketing and advertising a property
- managing a let
- collecting rent
- handling repairs
- ending a tenancy
If you're a landlord the Code will help you understand what you should expect when you're using a letting agent. It will also help you challenge them if you don't think they're meeting the standards in the Code.
Your letting agent must make you aware of the Code and give you a copy if you ask for it.
Register of Letting Agents
Everyone who wants to carry out letting agency work in Scotland needs to be registered before they can do this legally. The Scottish Letting Agent Register (the Register) is run by the Scottish Government.
It is against the law for a person to do letting agency work if they are not on the Register.
Letting agents cannot carry out letting agency work until their application to the Register has been approved. This is different to landlord registration, where a landlord is allowed to let property while their application to the Landlord Register is pending.
Before they can add an agent to the Register, the Scottish Ministers will have to decide whether the people in charge of a business applying to the register are 'fit and proper' persons to carry out letting agency work. Certain key people working in the business also need to have had a minimum standard of training.
To decide if someone is a ‘fit and proper’ person, Scottish Ministers will consider all the circumstances of the case including any material showing that the person has been convicted of offences involving fraud, violence, drugs or firearms or a sexual offence.
Scottish Ministers will also consider whether the person has broken any housing, landlord and tenant or debt laws or failed to comply with the Code.
If they're a registered letting agent, they'll have a unique letting agent registration number that they must put on all their communications and advertising. You can use this number to check whether they're registered. You can also search the Register using the letting agent's name.
Refused and revoked agents
If the Scottish Ministers are not satisfied that an agent meets the requirements to be registered, they must refuse to add them to the Register or, if they are already on the Register but no longer meet the requirements, revoke their registration.
Where the Scottish Ministers refuse to enter an agent in the Register or revoke an agent’s existing entry, this fact will be shown on the Register for 12 months after the date of final refusal.
You can check the Register for a list of refused and revoked agents.
Once an agent’s registration has been refused or revoked, they cannot get back any costs or charges incurred relating to letting agency work carried out in the period after the date their registration was refused or revoked.
Agents must renew their Registration every 3 years. Agents will be taken off the Register if they do not renew their registration before the deadline, or if Scottish Ministers decide the agent is no longer carrying out letting agency work. You can check the list of agents who have been removed from the Register for these reasons.
Landlords should not use a letting agent who isn't on the Register, or an agent whose registration has been removed, refused or revoked.
Get more information about the Register of Letting Agents and what steps agents have to take before they can be registered.
If you have a problem with your letting agent
If you're a landlord and you have a letting agent managing your property, there are a number of things you can do if you aren't happy with their work.
Check your contract
The first thing you should do is look at the 'terms of business' or business contract you have with your letting agent. The Code of Practice says that agents must agree with the landlord what services they will provide and give the landlord a copy of the agreement.
This should give details of the agreement you made with your agent on how they'll manage your property.
It will explain the services the agent will carry out for you, as well as how much authority they have to act on your behalf without checking with you first.
If there's a certain part of your letting agent's services you're unhappy with, you may want to ask them for their policy or procedure for that specific service.
The Code says that all agents must have specific procedures for a number of different parts of their work.
Check the Code of Practice
Your letting agent has to follow the Letting Agent Code of Practice from 31 January 2018.
If you are not happy with the way they're carrying out certain work on your behalf, check what the Code says about that service.
If your agent has failed to do what the Code says is required of them, you can make a formal complaint.
Make a formal complaint
You can make a formal complaint to your letting agent if you believe they've failed to either:
- do what they agreed to in their 'terms of business' or business contract, or
- follow the rules of the Letting Agent Code of Practice
The Code says that all agents must have a written complaints procedure. If you don't know your agent's procedure, they should be able to give you it.
Your complaint should be in writing, and you will need to give the agent a reasonable amount of time to respond.
If your letting agent belongs to a professional organisation or redress scheme (dispute resolution service), you may also want to make a complaint to them.
Apply to the housing tribunal
If you think your letting agent has failed to comply with the Code of Practice and you can't resolve the problem with them through their complaints procedure (or they don't respond within a reasonable time), you can take your complaint further.
You can do this by making an application to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber).
All letting agents must comply with the Code from 31 January 2018. The Tribunal will consider applications relating to any failure to comply with the Code which took place after this date.
More information on applying to the Housing and Property Chamber is available on the Tribunal website.
You can still take a case to the Tribunal against a letting agent who you think has failed to comply with the Code, even if they no longer manage your property, as long as the complaint is about something that happened after 31 January 2018.
There's no fee to make an application to the Tribunal. The Tribunal will be informal and the proceedings will be flexible to help resolve issues.
You don't need a lawyer to represent you – you can do it yourself, or ask someone else, like a friend of family member, to help you. You can also bring along someone to act as a supporter for you – they can, for example, give you moral support, take notes for you or help manage your documents.
If the Tribunal agrees with your complaint, they can issue a 'Letting Agent Enforcement Order'. This instructs the letting agent to carry out a set of steps to fix the problem and make sure they're following the Code.
It's against the law for a letting agent to not follow the instructions of an enforcement order. They can be prosecuted if they ignore it.
The Tribunal will also let Scottish Ministers know if the letting agent hasn't carried out the order. The agent could be banned from doing any more letting agency work.
All Tribunal decisions will be published on the Tribunal website, along with information about any enforcement order. You can search on the Tribunal website to see whether there have been cases about a specific letting agent.
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