MP in bid for estate agency powers to be devolved to Scotland

An MP has tabled an amendment to a Bill currently going through parliament that the regulation of estate agency in Scotland should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Alastair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland, wants the amendment to be added to the Scotland Bill to reflect the different laws governing the way homes in Scotland are bought and sold.

Currently, regulation of estate agency across the UK is covered by the Estate Agents Act 1979, which covers sales agents but fails to define letting agents as estate agents, meaning that they cannot be banned from the industry.

If powers were devolved, the Scottish Government could choose to ditch the Act and introduce its own legislation which could include letting agents in its remit.

In Scotland, estate agency work which is carried out by solicitor firms is regulated by the Law Society, which has been calling for estate agency to be devolved.

Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Conveyancing law and the property market in Scotland operate quite differently from the rest of the UK.

“There is also a far greater practice of solicitors carrying out estate agency work, providing an integrated service to those with property to sell or rent.

“By devolving the regulation of estate agency, the Scottish Parliament could create law which is more closely aligned to the Scottish legal system and better protect the needs of Scottish consumers.”

She added: “Legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2010 allows for new forms of solicitor and non-solicitor owned legal practices.

“We hope to become a regulator of these new firms by the end of this year. However, the 2010 Act was unable to allow approved regulators of these new providers to regulate their estate agency work alongside legal services.

“It means these new providers would be regulated by one regulator for legal services and regulated by another for their estate agency work.

“This all risks unnecessary bureaucracy for these new providers as they have to work to the requirements of multiple regulators.

“It also risks increased costs for consumers and creating a complex and confusing system.

“By devolving the regulation of estate agency to the Scottish Parliament, the law could be more easily changed to allow the same regulator to regulate estate agency and legal services, like conveyancing, on a more consistent basis.”

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