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Hamilton Landlord Sparks Legislation Change
Calls have been made to tighten up legislation on who can register as a private landlord, after it was revealed a struck-off Hamilton lawyer is able to rent out property.
The man, who lives in Bairncluith, was struck-off in 2011 following a Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal.
However he is an approved private landlord registered with South Lanarkshire Council, and has passed their fit and proper test.
Although councils can take into account factors such as criminal convictions when assessing landlords, being struck-off from a professional body is not an issue they can consider.
Uddingston MSP and Labour housing spokesman Michael McMahon is calling for legislation in this area to be tightened to protect tenants.
The ex lawyer was judged by the tribunal in 2011 not to be a fit and proper person to be a solicitor. He had removed £116,200 of client money to which he was not entitled.
And he had also acted as solicitor for a company which managed and developed houses.
Twelve buyers of the properties concluded missives and paid deposits amounting to around £6500 on average.
The cash went to the lawyer as the agent of the company.
But he later told solicitors acting for the purchasers that “for a number of reasons; the development would not proceed.”
Purchasers then raised an action against the company when their deposits were not refunded in full. However, the company was put into liquidation making the prospect of purchasers recovering the balance of their deposits “negligible”.
Later, Morna Grandison was appointed judicial factor to the estate of the ex lawyer and after negotiations a minute of agreement was entered into to allow clients with claims to be paid and cover the costs of the judicial factor’s involvement.
MSP Michael McMahon is worried that the judgement of the professional tribunal could not be taken into consideration by South Lanarkshire Council when deciding whether the man could register as a private landlord.
He said: “We have to ensure that people who are becoming landlords are fit and proper in the first place.
“My concern is there’s a bill going through parliament at the moment that looks at the relationship between tenant and landlord.
“But it doesn’t look at who has the right to be a landlord in the first place.
“What are the standards that are expected?”
Ann Gee, executive director of housing and technical Resources at South Lanarkshire Council said: “The process followed by South Lanarkshire Council is in accordance with the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004, which sets out details of the matters which a local authority should consider in determining whether an individual is a fit and proper person to be a landlord.
“The legislation notes that there are no mandatory grounds for rejection of an application, but sets out the types of factors which should be taken into account.
“South Lanarkshire Council also has procedures in place to monitor and, if necessary, formally review a landlord’s registration, to ensure that the landlord continues to meet the ‘fit and proper person’ test.”