More than 700 Scottish firms have now undergone the training required as part of a new register of letting agents.
The figures are revealed ahead of the introduction of a new letting agent code of practice, set to come into force on January 31.
Alongside the new code, letting agents (including those based outside Scotland who undertake work letting agency work there) and those working in property management, will need to join a new register of letting agents.
Applications for the register are set to open on January 31, although the website is not currently live.
Registration requires evidence that everyone in a lettings business who needs to has the relevant qualification covering essential aspects of letting agency work at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level six or above.
Two training programmes are acceptable in order for firms on the register to be properly qualified, one of which is provided by ARLA Propertymark, while the other is Landlord Accreditation Scotland’s (LAS) LETWELL programme.
ARLA Propertymark chief executive David Cox told EYE that 400 to 450 firms had now been trained under its programme, while LAS director Elspeth Boyle said 312 firms have been trained under LETWELL to date, equating to over 700 delegates.
“Two full rounds of the programme have already completed and two further rounds are taking place which will ensure that delegates are qualified ahead of the October 1 deadline for registration. Every round has been fully subscribed,” she said.
There is no definitive count for the total number of letting agents operating in Scotland, but it is estimated to be around 1,700.
Those firms that have employees who have achieved SCQF level six within the last three years are likely to meet the necessary requirements already.
To be fully compliant with the code, all letting agencies must also hold client money in a dedicated client account, belong to a Client Money Protection scheme and hold professional indemnity insurance.
Firms not on the register by October 1 this year could face fines of up to £50,000 and prison sentences of up to six months if they are caught carrying out letting agency work.
The fees for registration have recently been revealed. Companies with one office will have to pay £495, those with two or three offices will pay £595, and those with four or more offices will pay £700.
The impending changes have boosted membership of ARLA. Cox said: “Our membership in Scotland has risen by more than 25% over the last 12 months and I think that is largely because we have been providing packages to assist agents in complying with all the requirements.
“We are quite supportive of this and we think it is the best system of agent regulation that we have seen so far.
“The introduction of Rent Smart Wales was a bit of a disaster because it went over the top and was overly bureaucratic. This is much more sensible but they might have been a little bit overly administrative.
“We are talking about regulation in England as well now. Wales had the most difficult scheme because they were starting from scratch, Scotland has learned from Wales and what I am hoping is that England will learn from both Wales and Scotland and come up with a better version still.”
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced last October that letting agents across England will have to be registered under new legislation.
Private landlords are also to face regulation, with Javid announcing that they must all become members of a redress scheme – either in their own right or through a letting agent – which will offer dispute resolution.