Rebecca Evans, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
Prosperity for All: the national strategy reiterated the importance of housing as a key priority for Welsh Ministers. 15% of dwelling stock in Wales sits within the private rented sector (PRS); Welsh Government policy seeks to make this a tenure of choice for current and future tenants.
On 19 July 2017, following an announcement by the First Minister in the previous month’s legislative statement, the then Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children set out his concern that fees charged to tenants caused problems for people seeking to secure accommodation in the PRS. He launched a consultation to understand the extent of the fees charged, what those fees covered, and what issues, if any, the removal of the ability to charge these fees to tenants would cause to letting agents, landlords, tenants and any third parties involved in the PRS.
The consultation closed on 27 September 2017, having attracted almost 700 responses from a range of tenants, landlords and letting agents. This demonstrates the considerable interest there is in this issue. While I am not yet in a position to publish a detailed response to the consultation (this will follow in the New Year), early analysis indicates strong support for action in this area and I wanted to update members on my plans at the earliest opportunity.
The analysis shows that the majority of respondents, including a significant number of landlords, support a ban on fees being charged to tenants. Today, therefore, I am re-affirming the Welsh Government’s commitment to take action to ban fees being charged to tenants in the private rented sector.
I have therefore instructed my officials to proceed with plans to develop legislation. Officials will also begin a programme of engagement with stakeholders to share information and help us shape detailed plans about how future legislation would work in practice.
The growing size of the private rented sector, which has almost doubled in the last 10 years, makes it a vitally important part of the housing market and I want to work with landlords and agents to ensure the sector is strong, transparent and accessible.
Too many tenants report that the level of fees charged creates a barrier to them accessing good quality, secure housing. The evidence supports the view that agents’ and other fees have made the private rented sector unaffordable and inaccessible for some individuals and families, particularly those on lower incomes or benefits. Even for those currently renting, the additional costs resulting from fees to tenants can make movement within the sector difficult.
At a time when we need to work across all sectors to meet the housing needs of our citizens, we need to break down these barriers. Removing fees and ensuring that tenants can access the PRS, safe in the knowledge that their rent and tenancy deposit should, for the most part, be all they have to pay will be a significant step.
I will set out further details of our plans in respect of tenant fees in the New Year.