Recently, the Welsh Government issued a consultation, Homes for Wales – A White Paper for Better Lives and Communities. Chapter 6 (page 47 onwards) which is dedicated to the private rented sector in Wales.

Our proposals will improve the quality and management of privately-rented homes, which will benefit those who rent from private landlords, including some of our most vulnerable people. Developments will also help increase the supply of homes for people whose needs cannot be met by the market.

The proposals include  a national registration and accreditation scheme which will apply to all properties that are rented by private landlords, lettings and management agents. A brief overview is given in the document outlining how the scheme will operate (note how I use the term “will” and not “may” operate because I assure you this is going to happen!)

A further consultation outlining in much greater detail how the scheme will operate has just been released titled: Proposals for a Better Private Rented Sector in Wales. It is this further consultation that landlords and letting agents are particularly encouraged to read and respond to (although the first one is worthy of responding to too).

Before we provide a quick summary of what’s proposed, the Guild of Residential Landlords has been involved and trying to get views across to the Welsh Government in respect of these proposals and perhaps the most contentious from our stand point (and other landlord associations at the same meetings) is the requirement that when a landlord registers, that landlord must provide details of their entire portfolio to the scheme. This is despite the fact that the landlord may well be using a letting agent and not managing the properties themselves. Of course, the reason is to build up a substantial database but it is our view that there is no need for this information whatsoever. It is my true belief that if there is sufficient opposition to  this (all us landlords associations have done everything we can now) this requirement could be stopped but if nobody is too concerned or bothered, then fair enough let it carry on as the proposal is.

There will also be a requirement for them to list the address of each individual property which falls under their portfolio, whether managed by them, or by a third party. It is envisaged that there will be the capacity for bulk uploading significant amounts of information onto the database to make this task easier. [Para 9]

Owners / Landlords

In the first instance all landlords regardless of size of portfolio will be required to register with a scheme set up in Wales provisionally titled “Welsh Agents and Landlords Licensing Scheme” (currently shortened as WALLS and try saying that without a dog voice!) After registration, a fit and proper person check will be carried out which it is proposed will be based on the current HMO licensing system. Once that has been done, the landlord becomes “approved”.

The final stage is to become licensed which must be achieved within 2 years of the schemes introduction (for existing landlords). Becoming licensed involves the attending of a development course (or this may be available on-line) based upon the current Welsh Landlords Accreditation Scheme and the Private Rented Sector Accreditation Scheme. Once done, a landlord will become licensed which, it is proposed will need renewing every three years. A code of conduct will need to be adhered to throughout and hefty fines are proposed for failure to adhere or operate without a license.

If certain continuous profession development (CPD) is kept up, this can be used to offset the need to do a further course or lesser course at the time of renewal it is proposed.

The suggested costs are £50.00 for registration, £100.00 for the training and there are other administration and renewal fees proposed.

If a landlord does not wish to become licensed (or fails the suitability fit and proper test) they may use a registered letting agent but the landlord must always be registered regardless.

Letting and Managing Agents

The letting and managing agent section is very similar in nature in that each agent must first register, then become approved by passing a suitability test and finally becoming licensed. However, the route to being licensed is slightly different in that it is proposed that the agency must be a member of a body approved by the scheme which might include ARLA or NALS for example. In addition, it is proposed at least two-thirds of staff must then take the accreditation training like landlords in order to complete the licensing process. This latter part is the current accreditation process for letting agents in Wales.

Responses

Responses are required by 17 August 2012 and landlords are urged to respond with suggestions or queries. I doubt a response would stop this at this late stage (and I think most are fairly supportive in particular of the letting agent section) but there is still time to change and suggest aspects of how the scheme would operate. I would not suggest a standard letter passed around and signed by different people as past experience shows that standard letters like that are simply treated as one response. Responses should be made by email to housingandcommunities@wales.gsi.gov.uk or by post to:

Housing and Communities Team
Housing Directorate
Welsh Government
Merthyr Tydfil Office
Rhydycar
Merthyr Tydfil
CF48 1UZ

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