‘Clock ticking’ for rogue letting agents

Riccardo Giovanacci

A Scottish letting company is warning landlords of the limited time scale for their letting agent to apply for letting agent registration and calling for guarantees that regulation in the letting market is adequately policed to crackdown on unlawful letting agents.

As the ‘Scottish Letting Agent Register’ application deadline looms (October 1), Newton Property is questioning whether rogue letting agents will still be able to operate under the radar.

The three key questions Newton is urging all landlords to ask are:

  • Has your letting agent applied to the ‘Scottish Lettings Agent Register’?
  • Is your letting agent compliant with the ‘Lettings Agent Code of Practice’?
  • Have all deposits been lodged with a secure tenancy deposit scheme?

Riccardo Giovanacci, letting director of Newton Property, said: “Transparency is imperative in the lettings sector. There is unfortunately an air of criminality amongst many operators as sadly we still hear of instances where safety and financial standards are being compromised. Fraud, money laundering and tax evasion is still rife amongst rogue letting agents, many of whom are also themselves landlords, despite measures being introduced to stamp this out. So, the biggest question for us is ‘how is this new legislation going to be enforced and policed once implemented’?

“For too long now many letting agents have been operating in a sector that has been lacking minimum safety standards. We are well aware of many shocking instances of unhygienic living standards including vermin infestation and dangerous bacteria, including legionella and fungi, lurking in shower heads. Worse still are the cases of carbon monoxide being present in properties due to faulty boilers – this can be deadly.

“In the Glasgow area alone, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of people posing as lettings agents over the past five to ten years. From our own market analysis, we are aware of well over a hundred agents/landlords in operation however, we believe that that figure could be much higher, with many operating under the radar.”

Newton fully welcomes the new registration which will offer reassurances that all agents have been vetted by the government, who will also store information on whether an agent has been refused or had their registration removed.

Possessing professional qualifications and having previous lettings experience is compulsory as part of this new registration process. However, Newton would question how many lettings agencies in operation would make the grade.

Riccardo added: “This registration, if policed appropriately, is a step in the right direction however, we believe that legislation could go further to help stamp out rogue letting agents and improve the standards of Scotland’s lettings sector.

“If you feel your current agent isn’t fully transparent get in touch with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or an ARLA registered agent for professional advice. It will be a criminal offence to carry out letting agency work if you are not fully registered with the Scottish Government’s new ‘Scottish Letting Agent Register’.”

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