Countdown to letting agent registration deadline
CIH Scotland's policy and practice manager Ashley Campbell reminds members that letting agent applications must be submitted by 1 October 2018.
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced a requirement for all letting agents operating in Scotland to join a register managed by the Scottish Government. The legislation covers organisations and individuals that carry out ‘letting agency work’ which generally means:
- Carrying out work for a private landlord who wants to let their property out to a tenant; or
- Manging a property which is either rented out to a tenant or is planned to be rented out.
This includes tasks like collecting rent, inspecting properties and arranging repairs. The full definition of letting agency work is set out in section 61 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.
Social landlords do not have to register unless they manage homes for a private landlord, where a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) manages properties that are leased to a subsidiary or an RSL subsidiary manages properties for a private landlord. Depending on how businesses are structured, social landlords that offer mid market rent or other services in the private sector might have to register. We have found since the requirements were introduced that there are quite a few grey areas and a bit of uncertainty about who needs to register. The Scottish Government’s official guidance is that if you are not sure whether your organisation needs to register, you should seek independent legal advice.
In order to join the register, organisations or individuals need to pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test, comply with a new Code of Practice and key members of staff need to have achieved a minimum qualification equivalent to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 6 or above. Carrying out letting agency work without being registered will be an offence after the deadline has passed and can result in a fine of up to £50,000, up to six months imprisonment or both.
Further information about who needs to register and who needs to undertake a qualification is available on the Scottish Government’s website.
Letting agents need to submit a valid application to the register before the 1st October or will face a higher fee for a late application and potentially legal action if they continue to operate without registering.
In order to be a valid application, the organisation needs to have paid the relevant fee and all relevant members of staff need to have completed their qualification. Bearing in mind that invoices can take several weeks to process, it is recommended that organisations who want to pay by invoice should register at least a month in advance. Otherwise an online payment would be the only option to get the payment processed in time and avoid the higher fee for a late application.
The Scottish Government is urging all letting agents to make a start on their applications as soon as possible. The form requires a lot of information, particularly for larger organisations which will have to enter details of multiple staff members and may take longer to complete than expected. You can take a look at the registration system and check what information you will need to have gathered in advance or start your application here.
Our Letwell course, delivered in partnership with Landlord Accreditation Scotland was designed to meet the training requirements set out in the regulations. All of the courses are full this year but we will be accepting new students in 2019. You can find out more about the course or register interest for next year’s courses online. If you or a colleague still need a qualification but haven’t started yet, you can find details of other programmes here.