A major Landlord licensing and registration scheme, under the legislative banner “Rent Smart Wales” (Housing (Wales) Act 2014) was introduced last year. Most landlords should be well aware of this and making plans to conform when it comes into operation later this year. The Act will affect landlords and agents if they own or manage a house in Wales, occupied by someone other than themselves, in return for a rent. Landlords and agents can apply here: https://www.rentsmart.gov.wales/en/
But Rent Smart is not the end of it for landlords in Wales, by any means. The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill, is currently making its way through the National Assembly and by all indications, is akin to what’s happening in Scotland with their Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill.
The Wales Bill looks like it could radically change the way private tenancy contracts are written. Using what it terms “fundamental, prescribed and additional terms” to create a “standard contract”, and additional guidance, in what is called a “Key Matters” document.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) say they have been “especially busy in Wales working with the Welsh Government on the Renting Homes Bill to make sure the landlords’ voice is heard”.
So far, it seems, the RLA has successfully rebuffed attempts to include Rent Controls within the Bill, as well as proposals to remove a landlords’ no-fault eviction notice (section 21 notice). “We have also been working hard to ensure a Retaliatory Eviction clause does not act as a potential weapon against landlords,” says the RLA.
Along with similar provisions slated for England, the RLA has secured a new abandonment procedure in Wales, which means landlords and their agents will no longer need to get a court order when it is suspected a property has been abandoned by its tenant.
Letting agents in Wales had feared that, as in legislation introduced in Scotland last year, they would after this new legislation, be prevented from charging fees to tenants, meaning that, at least in practice, agents should not have to pass this cost onto the landlord, and subsequently to tenants as many now argue is the case in Scotland.
The RLA say they have submitted over 60 amendments to make the Renting Homes Bill more acceptable to landlords and agents and have gained cross-party support for many of them.
“Although we have protected landlords from many of the provisions that are being introduced in other parts of the country, for example Scotland where they have introduced Rent Controls and are doing away with Section 21 notices, we still have areas we are fighting on and our work is far from done”, the RLA say.
A significant move is the Minister in charge’s U-turn on the provision of a 6-month moratorium on the minimum fixed-period which you can issue at the start of a new tenancy. The Minister previously implied that removing it “will improve the position of many who are currently excluded from the assured tenancy arrangements – the moratorium does definitely make some landlords not want to give tenancies to people they deem as high risk, as I’ve said. So, I think it’s about getting that balance. I do want to see people not being driven towards poorer housing “
According to the RLA though, The Minister has now U-turned and committed to reintroducing the moratorium during Stage 3 of the Bill. Commenting on the Ministers U-turn, RLA Vice Chairman for Wales, Douglas Haig said:
“The Government’s U-turn cannot be swept aside as a minor detail. As the Minister’s comments make clear, maintaining the moratorium risks vulnerable tenants accessing much needed housing at short notice. Even at this late stage we call on the Government to think again and do as they originally intended, namely encourage and support landlords to house the most vulnerable in society.”