First introduced in November 2015, The Welsh government’s Rent Smart Wales (RSW) scheme was designed to drive up standards in the private rented sector and root out rogue landlords and agents.
Under the scheme all private rented properties in Wales and their landlords have to be named on a central public register.
The legislation allowed a year for people to comply without repercussion, but since November last year it has been a legal obligation for all landlords and property managers with properties in Wales to register.
Offending landlords are at risk of receiving a fixed penalty fine, renting stopping orders and having their license removed.
According to October 2017 figures, while 107,533 user accounts have been created, only 85,265 landlords are registered and only 16,716 are actually licensed. Although full compliance across the sector within two years was an unrealistic expectation, the non-compliance figure is still much higher than hoped after a year of enforcement.
As a lettings agency, we have supported the scheme from the beginning, as we believe once full compliance is achieved it will create more transparency in the sector and encourage good practice. It is good to see Wales leading the way in this regard and we would like to see the other UK administrations follow suit to make the private rented sector a more secure and regulated space.
Anyone can be a landlord and for many it is not their main profession, therefore a high proportion are unlikely to avidly follow industry news or have much engagement with their local council. As most marketing for the scheme was done through landlord and agency events and direct mail, unless you are an actively engaged landlord it is possible you haven’t heard of RSW.
It is also possible that the scale of the rental sector in Wales was not fully appreciated before the scheme was introduced; there are no exact figures for the number of landlords in Wales, for example, with estimates ranging from between 100,000 to 130,000.
There are also a large number of landlords living elsewhere in the UK with properties in Wales who must register their properties but are possibly unaware of the legislation.
The easiest and cheapest way to register is online; all landlords have to do is create an account on the RSW website then link to their licenced managing agent. Self-managing landlords also need to undergo the training to obtain a licence. Ideally, all landlords with a property in Wales would be registered with RSW by this time next year. However as the exact number of landlords is still unknown this could be an unrealistic target.
Rent Smart Wales has said that although the majority of landlords and agents in Wales are now “fully compliant” with legislation, there are some who continue to operate illegally.
It has warned that it will take action to make landlords comply, including issuing fixed penalty notices of up to £250 and taking forward prosecutions where necessary.
Its simple message to all those affected is to come forward and comply now. As an agency that’s a message we can get behind, and as a responsible sector it is one we should strongly endorse.
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Emily Samuel is letting agency manager for Newport-based Serenliving.