The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has called for further regulation of letting agents in Scotland, following recent measures to clamp down on charging unlawful fees.
The RICS notes that current rules mean that anyone can set up an agency without appropriate qualifications or understanding of housing law.
It states that many of the 500-plus letting agents in Scotland are unregulated.
The group adds that regulation is needed to “provide long-term security”.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced that rent laws will be clarified to ensure that letting agents do not charge private tenants illegal fees.
Ministers argue that existing legislation has not been specific enough about additional charges, such as reference checks, credit checks and inventory fees.
However, the RICS insists that more regulation is necessary.
Director of RICS Scotland, Sarah Speirs, says: “The private rented sector is growing in Scotland as people struggle to buy property and it is imperative that we regulate the sector to provide long-term security.
“The Scottish Government has taken welcome action introducing mandatory tenancy deposit schemes to protect individuals’ deposits.
“However, despite the significant regulation in place for landlords, there is a gap in regulation for letting agents.
“At present, letting agents are not required to abide by a government, ombudsman or regulatory body code of practice – demonstrating a lack of legal responsibility.”1
The Law Society of Scotland regulates solicitors that operate letting agencies and some agents are members of RICS or accreditation agencies, such as Landlord Accreditation Scotland (LAS) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), which has a member’s code of conduct.
RICS uses obligatory external auditing to ensure that member agents are following the code.