Solicitors regulated by the Law Society of Scotland will not have to duplicate work to meet requirements set by a new code of conduct for letting agents, the Society said today.
The new code, contained in regulations laid before the Scottish Parliament yesterday, is being introduced under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, which brings in a register of letting agents, with power in ministers to remove a letting agent from the register if they are no longer "fit and proper".
The Society attempted unsuccessfully to have solicitors exempted from the new regime, on the ground that they are already subject to strict professional regulation, but has achieved a number of amendments to the prevous draft regulations.
Kaira Massie, solicitor in the Society’s Professional Practice team, commented: "While solicitors will still be subject to the new letting agency scheme, there will be less duplication than was in the original proposals.
“We’re pleased that the Scottish Government has considered many of the points we raised. The regulations now take into account that solicitors are required to have indemnity to practise and will not be required to take out additional cover. They have also been amended to take into account that solicitors are already required to take anti money-laundering measures and conduct checks."
She added that the Society still has some concerns: “We remain concerned however that there is still a potential for conflict of interest if solicitors are subject to two different regulatory regimes.
“Additionally, while we are pleased the regulations require letting agents to consider conflict of interest between clients and/or the letting agent’s personal interests, we don’t believe they go far enough. We would like to see these further developed to direct letting agents as to a course of action when conflict arises. This is still under discussion with the Scottish Government.”
The Society has also raised issues around confidentiality, and considers the requirement for solicitors to advise a local authority when a landlord is failing to meet their obligations to be at odds with their duties of confidentiality. It will continue to press for this obligation to be restricted to having to pass on information only if a client indicates they will commit a crime, so solicitors can maintain their professional duties of confidentiality.
It also wants solicitors to be regarded as having met the "fit and proper" test, as they already have to satisfy such a test to be able to practise.
Ms Massie said the Society was also disappointed that solicitors may remain subject to the First-tier Tribunal even if a complaint related to letting agent work has been dfealt with by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
The regulations will now be considered by the Scottish Parliament's Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee.