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Professionalising Property Factoring

What’s the difference between a profession and a job (no Googling!)?

Simply put, a job is what you do to earn money whereas a profession is a career; a job which is defined by both commitment and training. The workplace has ample room for both but I raise this initial point as professionalism and training have now come more into focus within the property factoring industry.

The blight of unregulated industries is that anyone can be admitted and there are no practising restrictions. You could be a trapeze artist one day, a property manager the next (the skills may be transferable!). The introduction of legislation with the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011, now requires all property factors to be registered, meeting certain basic standards, as well as paying an annual registration fee. Factors must adhere to a Code of Conduct and property owners now have a formal avenue of complaints via the First Tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing & Property Chamber), formerly the snappier named HOHP.

So far so good? Well, yes, to a point. All responsible factors should welcome regulation. Regulation of any industry which is public facing and financially based should be properly scrutinised and regulated. That’s a given, but the question is, should we go further? Our sister industry, letting, has carbon copied much of the registration and regulatory requirements found with factoring but with one significant difference. A key component of the regulation of the letting sector in Scotland will be the requirement for formal qualifications. From 31st January 2018, all senior members of staff within a letting company must be qualified through ARLA.

Of course, professional exams for property factors are nothing new and for many years, these have been set and administered through the Institute of Residential Property Managers (IRPM). However, it’s fair to say that the IRPM exam course has not been embraced in Scotland with the enthusiasm you might expect and take up rates lag significantly behind our colleagues south of the border. There is currently an ongoing debate within the factoring industry in Scotland as to how we make syllabuses and exams more relevant to those working in the sector and whatever comes from this can only be positive.

Professional qualifications should, of course, go hand in hand with training. Given the sheer variety of issues a property manager has to deal with on a daily basis, training is an important way to compliment and assist the manager’s knowledge. In the past year, within our own company, we’ve had in house training seminars delivered on such wide raging subjects as Japanese Knotweed, timber preservation, asbestos and health and safety practices to name but a few. CPD (continuous professional development) is usually a standard requirement in order to maintain a professional qualification and this can often be a catalyst in encouraging a suitable in house training regime to be put in place.

Factors have come a long way in a short space of time and perhaps it’s time to go just that little bit further. If the training/exam product is right (and I appreciate this will not happen overnight) then it would certainly reinforce the credibility of the factoring industry to look at some sort of compulsory qualification requirement for at least the senior staff within an organisation, and maybe even beyond this.

Food for thought?

 

Nic Mayall

Managing Director

James Gibb residential factors

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