A new call has gone out to landlords and agents throughout the UK who hold or manage properties within Wales. Due to recent changes in legislation, many landlords outside of Wales could inadvertently be breaking the law. Last year various changes to the Housing Act (Wales) 2014 came into effect as a means of maintaining the highest levels of protection for the private rental market. In reality the new laws make perfect sense, as a means of protecting landlords, agents and tenants, but unfortunately many property owners outside of Wales may not be aware of their new legal obligations.
Landlords and agents
Under the Rent Smart Wales scheme, run by Cardiff council in partnership with 22 local Welsh authorities, landlords need to register themselves and their properties. Self-managing landlords and agents are required to apply for licences to operate in Wales. However, this is not just your simple registration scheme but one which requires completion of an appropriate training course and the passing of the “fit and proper” person assessment.
This is a major change for the Welsh private rental market and in reality it is one which has been welcomed by tenants and councils across the country. The authorities confirmed that upwards of 70,000 of an estimated 130,000 landlords in Wales had registered for the scheme by the end of April. A further 7000 licences have also been granted with around 11,500 applicants still awaiting a decision from the authorities. However, the situation is now beginning to change as enforcement powers have now been passed to Rent Smart Wales.
Legislative powers for Rent Smart Wales
It may be unfortunate but the scheme name, Rent Smart Wales, has given some landlords outside of Wales the impression the legislation only relates to Welsh landlords. This is certainly not the case and a number of landlords could well be feeling the prosecution powers of the Rent Smart Wales authority very soon.
There is now an array of powers available to Rent Smart Wales which include prosecution, fixed penalty notices, the stopping of rental payments, rent repayment orders and, in a worst-case scenario, an inability for landlords to secure possession of their property under a section 21 notice. For those landlords with rental property in Wales the clock is ticking and action should be taken sooner rather than later. You only need to take a look at the new enforcement powers made available to Rent Smart Wales to see what kind of problems non-registration/licencing could bring.
Additional costs but peace of mind
At some point it was an editable that the Welsh authorities would put in place a registration/licensing system for those operating in the private rental market. There are obviously additional costs with regards to training and registration/licences which need to be renewed every five years. The registration of landlords and their properties is retained on a central database and as a consequence there is no need to register for different areas of the country.
The system itself is very easy to follow with registration and licence applications made online. There is also a searchable register on the Rent Smart Wales website which allows the general public to check the current status of landlords and agents. Thankfully the potential issues for landlords living outside of Wales are receiving significant publicity with landlord/agent associations up and down the UK very keen to make their members aware of the situation.
It is interesting that nobody is really complaining about the details of the scheme because it keeps landlords and agents up-to-date with what can be a very fluid private rental legislation sector. Attending training courses will also assist with the “fit and proper” person assessment which is an integral part of the scheme. Will this be enough to rid Wales of rogue landlords and agents who like to operate outside of the law?