One of Scotland’s top lettings agents is warning of “an air of criminality” in the rental industry north of the border.
His comments come as the latest industry regulation deadline in Scotland - for applications to join The Scottish Letting Agent Registry - looms just next Monday, October 1.
“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” claims Riccardo Giovanacci, letting director of Newton Property.
He says that for too long, many Scottish 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”
Now Newton Property wants guarantees that the new Scottish Letting Agent Registry is adequately policed to crack down on unlawful letting agents. It is urging landlords across Scotland to ask three key questions - firstly, has their agent applied to join the register?; secondly, is the agent compliant with the register’s requirements?; and thirdly, have all deposits been lodged with a secure deposit scheme?
“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 10 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” says Giovanacci.
The agency says it fully welcomes the new registration system which will offer reassurances that all agents have been vetted by the government, which will also store information on whether an agent has been refused or had its registration removed.
However, Newton Property says many lettings agencies in operation may not make the grade.
Riccardo continues: “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.”
And he gives this message to landlords: “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 new Scottish Letting Agent Register.”