From 31st January 2018, residential letting agents in Scotland will be required by law to comply with a Letting Agent Code of Practice.
Since October 2014, it has been a legal requirement for letting agents and property managers in England to join one of the three government-approved redress schemes in England: The Property Ombudsman Limited, Ombudsman Services and Property Redress Scheme.
There are some exceptions. The intention is that all ‘high street’ or web-based letting agents and organisations (including charities) which conduct letting agency business will belong to an approved redress scheme. Those which are not required to join a scheme include: higher and further education authorities, legal professionals, managers of commonhold land, student accommodation or refuge homes, local authority or social landlords. Self-managed resident management companies are also excluded.
Estate agents dealing with residential property have been required to join one of the schemes since October 2008.
Redress schemes require their members to have:
- A separate, dedicated client account.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Client money protection (in Scotland, and advised in England)
Agencies which are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will already comply with the requirements.
In a bid to drive up standards within the industry, the schemes require members to abide by a code of conduct and provide a complaints system to tenants and landlords with agents in the private rented sector, and to property owners dealing with property managers in the residential sector. Making a complaint is free of charge, but must be reported within twelve months of any incident.
A fine of up to £5,000 can be imposed against an agent or property manager who does not abide by the code of conduct or fails to join a scheme.
You can check to see whether your estate agent, letting agent or property manager is a member of the scheme they claim to belong to by checking on the organisation’s website, where a list is published. Contact your Local Authority if you discover an agent that is not registered.