Proposed letting agent regulations risk unnecessary cost to the public
The Law Society of Scotland believes that proposed regulations for letting agents in Scotland could lead to an unnecessary cost to the public by creating an unnecessary dual regulatory regime for Scotland’s solicitors.
Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a draft statutory code of practice and training requirements for letting agents in Scotland, a working group set up by the Society has stated that that the Law Society’s rules for solicitors provide greater protection for the public and the less robust regulations proposed for letting agents should not be applied to solicitors who undertake letting agency work as defined in the act.
The scheme for the mandatory regulation and registration of letting agents in Scotland has been proposed under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 and the Law Society have said that the Act’s broad definition of ‘letting agents’ would affect a number of Scottish solicitors and their firms or organisations.
Kaira Massie, solicitor at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We support the Scottish Government’s aim to raise standards in the industry and provide greater protection and assurances for those in the rented housing sector. However, solicitors in Scotland are already subject to stringent rules of admission and detailed practice rules covering professional ethics and conduct and we believe the proposed regulations would cause conflicts of interest for our members who also carry out letting agency work.”
The Law Society requires that those seeking to practise as a solicitor are ‘fit and proper’ to be admitted to the solicitor profession and are of suitable character to practise in law. Many other regulated professions have similar requirements.
Mrs Massie added: “We believe recognition should be given to those professions who already satisfy strict ‘fit and proper’ requirements and are subject to a professional code of conduct, such as the Law Society’s. If solicitors are to be included under the proposed regulations then the Scottish Government must take into account the profession's existing rules of conduct to ensure there is no conflict and that, where similar rules are to exist, the Law Society’s rules should prevail - as in many instances these will be stronger and offer greater client protection.
“For example, the Law Society’s client accounts rules are more specific and apply a higher standard than those proposed for letting agents. They offer a high degree of assurance to the public with regular inspections of the client account in all law firms and additional protections for the public, such as the Client Protection fund which exists to protect clients who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a solicitor or a member of their staff. Duplicate or conflicting arrangements will lead to an unnecessary cost to the public and may conflict with the Society’s rules relating to client accounts for solicitors who also undertake letting agent work.
“While we are critical of aspects of the proposals, we were pleased to see that the government considered our recommendation to make the proposed regulations for non-solicitor letting agents more robust. We will be engaging with the Government further to discuss the proposals and to ensure due consideration is given to our members who work in the letting agency sector.”
ENDS 17 November 2015
Notes to editors:
For more information and the Law Society’s full consultation response, visit our website.
For further information on the legislation see the Scottish Government’s website.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Journalists can contact Sarah Sutton on 0131 476 8170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.