Rent Smart Wales will help raise standards in the private rented sector, Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said today.
The Cabinet Secretary was addressing Assembly Members, on the eve of bringing in powers which mean enforcement action can be taken against landlords and agents who are unregistered or unlicensed. He said:
“Tomorrow marks a significant milestone. Our Housing (Wales) Act 2014 included ground-breaking legislation designed to improve the private rented sector through the mandatory registration and licensing of all private landlords and agents.
“Registration will identify – for the first time – private landlords who let properties and where those properties are. Licensing includes a fit and proper person test and, importantly, training for those who directly let and manage properties. Ensuring landlords and agents are fully aware of their responsibilities raises standards, and makes the sector a more attractive proposition.
“96% of those attending the training sessions have said it would make them better landlords, which is precisely what we are trying to achieve. There are benefits for landlords and tenants alike.
“The scheme will also reduce the scope for poor landlords to neglect their responsibilities and for rogue landlords to abuse their position without fear of consequences.”
The Cabinet Secretary also reminded landlords and agents of the need to register and apply for licences. By midnight on Monday November 21st over 55,000 private landlords had registered, another 12,000 had started the registration process and over 81,000 users had created accounts and are involved in the process of complying.
No-one knows precisely how many private landlords there are. The estimate is between 70,000 and 130,000.
“In twelve months, this is a significant achievement and I applaud the huge effort of the staff of Rent Smart Wales, which is run by Cardiff City Council on behalf of all local authorities. Recent months have seen a huge rush to register. As a result, Rent Smart Wales has taken longer than usual to respond to some calls and emails. I appreciate this has caused concern for some landlords who haven’t been able to complete the registration and licensing process.
“Rent Smart Wales has said that those who have started the process to comply will not face enforcement action if they have done all they reasonably can to comply. But, this must not be seen as an excuse to ignore the law. My message to private landlords is clear. You must take action to comply with the requirements of the law.
“We know some private landlords will deliberately flout the law. They will be targeted and if they fail to comply, they will face the consequences, including fines, fixed penalties, restrictions on evicting tenants, and rent stopping and repayment orders.”
City of Cardiff Council Cabinet Member, Cllr Bob Derbyshire, said:
“I’m pleased that Wales is leading the way with the Rent Smart Wales Scheme, for which the City of Cardiff Council is the licensing authority.
“The private rented sector is an increasingly important option for many people and therefore it’s essential that we drive up standards so that landlords, agents and tenants are all aware of their rights and responsibilities.
“The scheme is already having a positive impact. Many of those who have completed training have said it will help them to become better landlords.
“When the deadline for registering has passed, our team of enforcement officers will be working in partnership with councils across Wales to enforce the new law, and priority will be those who have failed to take any step towards complying.
“My advice to anyone in that situation would be to contact Rent Smart Wales as soon as possible.”