Rent Smart Wales
PUBLISHED: 10:43 29 April 2016 | UPDATED: 20:41 15 May 2016
Is it smart? Will it work for Wales?
Wales. It is the castle ‘capital’ of Europe with over 600 of them, of every shape, style, period and condition. There are those built Roman times, Iron-Age hillforts, medieval fortresses and 19th Century “follies” built by industrial millionaires. So the phrase “every man’s home is his castle” is probably never truer than in this incredible country.
Castles were, in the main, originally built for protection and defence – and in November last year, the Welsh Government announced details of a new registration and licensing scheme, Rent Smart Wales, for the country’s private rental sector to protect and defend tenants from unscrupulous practices by rogue landlords. According to government figures, about one in seven homes in Wales - 184,000 - are privately rented and so there is plenty of scope for unprincipled methods.
OK. So here is the ‘nitty gritty’. All landlords who have rental properties in Wales, on an assured/assured shorthold or regulated tenancy agreement will need to be registered with Rent Smart Wales by November 2016. There are exemptions: if you receive less than £250 rent on an annual basis or if you have holiday lets, or letting of boats or caravans.
If you, as a Landlord, are not involved in setting up tenancies and managing your properties, you must still register, but you do not need to also get trained and get a licence; instead your managing agent must obtain a licence. An agent can be a professional, or can be anyone from a family member to a friend who helps with the day-to-day matters that pop up with tenants and houses. If a landlord, or agent is involved in speaking directly to tenants, arranging/conducting viewings, referencing, tenancy agreements, inventories, collecting rent, organising repairs and maintenance, organising access to a tenanted property for any reason, organising contents or condition checks, or serving notice to end a tenancy – then they need to apply for a landlord/agent licence and then receive the correct training. And, in a commercial firm, is that just the Letting Agents or Property Managers? No: it includes anyone who has direct contact with tenants, including Senior Partners and secretaries. Yours truly will be fully trained by September – but don’t worry: you have until 23rd November.
In order to register, landlords need to enter their correspondence details, their rental properties in Wales, whether they manage and let the properties or name the agent in place and pay the registration fee. For those landlords and agents who need a licence their application also involves providing their correspondence details, whether there are any connected persons undertaking management and/or letting activities for the applicant, declaring whether they are fit and proper, obtaining the relevant training (depending on whether they are applying as a landlord or agent) and then paying the licence fee.
One registration is all that is needed for any amount of properties owned in the same landlord arrangement (individual, joint, company, charity or trust). I have to admit to being somewhat confused initially as to registration – so it is definitely (I think!) worth summing up: you don’t need a separate registration per property, just per landlord arrangement. Any changes (sales, purchases, changes in personal phone numbers or addresses) must also be registered on the system within 28 days of the change. Whilst we always like to provide our landlords with exceptional service, we are not allowed to take this task upon our shoulders! It is the Landlord’s responsibility to make sure everything is always up to date.
And so how will this improve life for tenants? The intention is that Lettings and Management practices will improve, that landlord (or agent) names are linked and registered to all their properties, that information on agents and landlords is easily found by local authorities if necessary, and that tenants have a raised awareness of their own rights and responsibilities.
So it should give the tenants comfort – but what about landlords? Opinion is divided as to whether it just adds a lot of paperwork and penalise those who already do a good job, or whether the scheme will help to target criminality and poor standards. One thing is certain: whether we agree with it or not, rules are rules! There is a little more breathing space – we all have until November this year to complete landlord registrations, and apply for self-managing landlord or agent licences. Enforcement of the scheme will not be happen until after 23rd November 2016 to give everyone a chance to get all the necessary applications completed and training undertaken.
There is a thought from some quarters that Rent Smart Wales might amount to little more than a list of names and corresponding properties, and that it might lose the confidence of tenants who were expecting it to make a noticeable difference. It is important to realise that Rent Smart Wales is not a scheme to make properties suitable for rental as this is covered by the Housing Act 2004. Sadly, all 184,000 privately rented properties are not castles – be they whole, or converted – but I envisage that those involved in Rent Smart Wales are, as knights of old, flags and pennants fluttering in the brisk Welsh breeze, wanting to ride to the rescue of those in distress, be they in castle or in keep. And whether you own it, or rent it: “Does unman yn debyg i garter!”
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888