The Welsh Assembly’s new policies affecting the private rental sector in Wales may serve as an interesting template for the rest of the UK.
Rob Clifford, Chief Executive of Century 21 UK, made an interesting point when he suggested that we may be getting a glimpse of the Private Rental Sector of the future if we examine the measures that have recently been passed by the Welsh Assembly as part of its Housing Wales Bill.
He reminds us that the Welsh Assembly has power over housing and, given the fact Labour is the biggest party and leads the Government there, it has the ability to bring in policies – something it is unable to do in England. Therefore, in Wales, regulation of letting agents and landlords will now go ahead via a two-stage process. This means that all agents and landlords will need to be registered and if they want to manage properties, they will also need to be licensed.
Landlords in Wales who choose not to be licensed will no longer be permitted to manage their own properties and will be forced to use a letting agent. Cardiff City Council will be running the scheme, giving them enforcement powers over unlicensed and unregistered landlords and agents who are breaking the rules.
But that’s not the end of it. The new rules also state that all landlords and agents will need to be deemed ‘fit and proper’ and will have to complete training and pass specific tests. Those landlords and/or agents who break the rules can have their licenses revoked and, if this is the case, then tenants will be able to withhold their rents.
It seems likely that many small landlords will not wish to bother with applying for a licence, and will pass the responsibility to registered and licenced letting agents instead. Whether this will result in higher management fees remains to be seen, but as Clifford says, these changes will provide an interesting template for the rest of the country, particularly if the Labour Party wins next year’s election.