Guide

Letting agent registration

Last updated: 7 November 2017

Who needs to register

If you do letting agency work in Scotland you will soon be required by law to comply with a Letting Agent Code of Practice and to join a Register of Letting Agents.

The Register of Letting Agents will be a list run by Scottish Ministers that will make sure every letting agent is suitable to do the job and has met minimum training requirements.

Sign up for updates

You can sign up for updates about the regulation of letting agents, or ask the Scottish Government a question.

When do I need to register?

The register is likely to start accepting applications from early in 2018. You must have submitted an application by 30 September 2018.

It will be a criminal offence to do letting agency work if you aren't on the register. If you're convicted, you could face a fine of up to £50,000, up to 6 months imprisonment or both.

Letting agency work generally means you either:

  • carry out work for a private landlord who wants to let their property out to a tenant
  • manage a property (including collecting rent, inspecting the property and arranging for repairs and maintenance) which either is currently or is planned to be rented out to a tenant

There is a legal definition of letting agency work, you must consider this definition in deciding whether you need to register and comply with the Code. For a more detailed explanation, and to view the legal definition, see section 61 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.

If you aren't sure

It's up to every person and company involved in the process of letting out property to decide whether they think what they do counts as letting agency work.

If you aren't sure, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • is the work you do for a property owner a business arrangement?
  • do you charge a fee or take another type of payment for the work you do? (Just because you don't take a fee for the work you do, does not automatically mean you are not a letting agent)
  • are you regularly doing work related to letting and managing properties? (If you are regularly doing work for a private landlord, this may be considered a business arrangement)

If you answer 'yes' to all of these questions, you probably do need to join the register.

If you still aren't sure, you should seek legal advice to find out whether you need to register.

Common scenarios

Although anyone doing letting agency work must join the register, there are a number of situations where it may not be clear whether you should join.

Whether or not you need to register will depend on the exact circumstances of the arrangement you have in place.

Here are some of the more common situations, and whether you should join if they apply to you. This list does not cover all scenarios and if you are in doubt, you should seek legal advice.

If you work for an estate managing its private lets

If an estate lets out its own private properties, whether it has to register as a letting agent will depend on how the business is structured.

Some estates are made up of a number of separate legal entities. An estate may own properties under one company and employ letting staff under a different company.

If staff carrying out letting work for an estate are employed by the same company (legal entity) that owns all the properties they let, the company they work for doesn't have to register.

If the staff are employed by a different company (legal entity) from the one that owns the properties, the company those staff work for will have to register.

If you own and manage your own properties

You don't need to register if you only manage properties you own.

If you've established a company to own and manage your properties

If you have established a company to own your properties you are unlikely to need to register if:

  • you carry out the letting and management of your company's properties in your role as a Director, officer or employee of the company, and
  • you don't let or manage properties owned by another private landlord

If you manage properties for a family member

Whether or not you need to register will depend on the exact circumstances of the arrangement you have in place.

If you're helping with the letting and management of a property that's owned by a family member, you won't usually be expected to register if:

  • you're making no money from it - not charging a fee or being paid (no commercial gain)
  • it isn't part of your business
  • you only occasionally help out

You would still need to register as an agent under landlord registration.

If you're managing a family member's property under a power of attorney

You don't need to register in this situation.

If you're a solicitor who prepares leases for your clients

The definition of letting agency work must be considered within the context of the whole of Part 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.

The definition of letting agency work, which incorporates a definition of relevant instructions, does not capture the act of only preparing a lease. If, in your capacity as a solicitor, you only prepare a lease you will not expected to register.

If you carry out other actions which constitute "letting agency work" you will be required to register.

If you're a social landlord (registered social landlord and local council)

If you're a social landlord, you won't be expected to register if you only manage properties that:

  • you own
  • are owned by a local council
  • are owned by a registered social landlord

If you manage properties for a private landlord you will be expected to register.

If you're a registered social landlord (RSL) or RSL subsidiary

If you're an RSL or a subsidiary of an RSL but you only manage properties that your organisation owns directly you'll not be expected to register. However, if:

  • an RSL manages properties it has leased to its subsidiary company, the RSL will be expected to register
  • an RSL or its subsidiary manages properties for a private landlord (not a local council or an RSL) it will be expected to register.

Any RSL or its subsidiary unsure whether letting agent regulation applies should seek its own legal advice on whether it's required to comply with the code of practice and register.

If you only let and manage holiday lets

Where you only let out and manage holiday lets you will not be expected to register.

If you're a contractor (plumber, electrician etc)

You won't normally have to register if you're a contractor and the work you carry out on a property is purely part of your job.

If you're not based in Scotland

If your business is outside Scotland and is doing letting agency work (as defined in the Act) in Scotland, you will need to apply to join the register and comply with the Code.

Letting agent registration
Who needs to register