Friday, 22 April 2011

Royal Assent for Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011

The Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 has received Royal Assent this month, marking the end of a four year campaign initiated and led by Govan Law Centre (GLC), and the start of a better deal for Scotland's homeowners.

The genesis of the Bill was grassroots. At GLC's fortnightly casework meetings our solicitors would repeatedly flag up the growing number of instances of homeowner exploitation by property factors. GLC's local Board of Trustees were equally troubled with the ability of Glasgow's citizens to be ripped-off with impunity. It was apparent something had to be done to redress the imbalance between the rights of unregulated companies and the rights of Scottish homeowners, many of whom were financially or otherwise vulnerable.

A Bill proposal and consultation paper drafted by GLC was first introduced in the Scottish Parliament by the then Govan MSP Gordon Jackson QC in March 2007, but had insufficient time to progress. The reins were quickly picked up by Maryhill MSP Patricia Ferguson and in October 2007 a fresh proposal and consultation paper was published by the Scottish Parliament. High profile support came from a series of BBC tv and radio investigations and a campaign for law reform sponsored by Glasgow's Evening Times newspaper.

Constant publicity led to the OFT launching a market investigation into Scotland's property factor industry, which had the effect of kicking Patricia Ferguson's Bill proposal into the long grass. Despite the OFT recommending the Scottish Government's favoured solution of 'voluntary accreditation', Patrica Ferguson and GLC ploughed on, gathering support and finally making a winning case for major law reform to protect Scottish homeowners.

GLC's Mike Dailly and draftperson of the Bill said: "We're very proud of the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 because its a victory for common sense, and will help prevent homeowners in Scotland being exploited, while providing a new accessible tribunal remedy with 'legal teeth' if they do get stung.  It's also an example and case in point of the importance of local community law centres. Law centres are being threatened in England and Wales, but we need more of them in the UK, not less".

"Without Patricia Ferguson's tireless dedication and hardwork the Bill would not have seen the light of day. We would acknowledge the tremendous support from Patricia's researcher Chris Kelly, the Parliament's excellent Legislation Team, the Local Government Committee and various civil servants at the Scottish Government who all helped to make this progressive piece of legislation possible".

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