UK’s first compulsory registration scheme for private residential landlords launched

A new registration and licensing scheme aimed at preventing rogue landlords and agents from letting and managing properties has been launched in Wales but there is concern that not enough tenants know about it.

According to Welsh Housing Minister Lesley Griffiths Rent Smart Wales will also raise awareness by landlords, agents and tenants of their respective rights and responsibilities and drive up standards in the private rented sector.
 
Under the scheme all private landlords will be required to register with Rent Smart Wales. They will also have to register their properties if they want to manage the property themselves and must demonstrate they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence, and then undertake, and pass, approved training.

Alternatively, they will be able to appoint a licensed agent to manage the property on their behalf. Landlords and agents have one year to comply with their new legal obligations, without fear of legal action.
 
‘With around one in seven homes in Wales now privately rented, a strong sector with good working practices is absolutely vital. I am proud Wales is leading the way on improving professionalism across the private rented sector,’ said Griffiths.

‘Our new, landmark scheme will drive up standards by making Wales the first country in the UK where managing landlords and agents are required to undertake training to ensure they are clear on their responsibilities,’ she explained.
 
‘The changes will prevent rogue, and even criminal, landlords and agents from being involved in the management and letting of properties. This will help to protect tenants in the private rented sector, including students, lone parents and young families. Rent Smart Wales will also support good landlords and agents by helping them keep abreast of their responsibilities and legal obligations, and raising the reputation of the sector as a whole,’ she added.
 
However, new research from the National Landlords Association suggests that many are unaware of the new laws. It found that 65% of tenants in Wales are unaware of the change but despite low awareness levels among tenants, the findings show that 69% believe they will feel more confident renting from private landlords and letting agents once they are all registered and more 56% believe that the scheme will help them to find appropriate housing.

‘The NLA will be working to help landlords and agents comply with this new law but we’ve always been concerned that a mandatory registration and licensing scheme will not provide the benefits the Welsh Assembly says it will,’ said Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA.

‘As the licensing authority, Cardiff City Council must start working with other local authorities from the outset in order to fine and prosecute those who fail to comply within the year’s grace period. Without proper enforcement the scheme will do nothing to stop criminals in the sector but as yet we’ve seen no detail about how Cardiff City Council plans to do this,’ he pointed out.
‘Unless they’re quick off the mark, come next November, there’s a real danger that Rent Smart Wales will amount to little more than just a list of names and it will quickly lose the confidence of tenants who expect it to make a difference,’ he added.

Rent Smart Wales will replace the existing voluntary Landlord Accreditation Wales scheme, which has been operated by Cardiff Council on behalf of all local authorities in Wales. Councillor Bob Derbyshire, City of Cardiff Council member for environment, said that Wales really is setting the standard which will professionalise the private rented sector.

‘By supporting and educating landlords and agents for the benefit of tenants, Rent Smart Wales aims to improve the practices of landlords and agents and help to tackle the bad landlords who give the sector a poor reputation,’ he added.
 
The registration process is available online at www.rentsmart.gov.wales and should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete but slightly longer for those registering more than one property. There is also be a paper application for those with no internet access.

To become licensed a landlord or letting agent will need to complete a simple application process, pay a fee, pass a ‘fit and proper person check’ and complete approved training. Details of the fee structure set by Cardiff Council are available on the Rent Smart Wales website.

Those who are already accredited members of Landlord Accreditation Wales will be transferred into the new system and their accreditation training will be recognised for the purposes of licensing.

After the initial year of operation, the full range of enforcement powers in Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, such as fixed penalty notices and prosecutions, will be introduced. From this date landlords and agents found to be ignoring their new obligations will have action taken against them by local authorities and the licensing authority.