The row over what appears to be a total shambles in Wales over licensing charges and the requirement for agents to show their fees as from this week, but with only days to comply, looks set to continue.
The Welsh government has also defended its pricing menu for letting agents and landlords to comply with mandatory registration and licensing requirements. The costs run into thousands.
It is still also not clear exactly who has been consulted.
The compulsory scheme, set out as a flagship template for England, has within days encountered strong opposition and setbacks.
There has now been an admission – conceded to be “an embarrassing mistake” – that notification of the requirement for letting agents in Wales to show fees was wrongly dated as November 2014.
The admission means that agents in Wales were given only six days to comply.
Yesterday, the Welsh Government told EYE that the notification about the mandatory display of letting agent fees, dated November 2014, was a mistake.
It should have been dated November 2015 – not last year, but last week, when the notification was sent out.
The admission totally exonerates ARLA, local councils and agents who said they had never seen the requirement to show fees until a few days ago.
EYE’s coverage of the issue also aroused strong comments.
One poster said that the 2014 date might have meant that the Welsh Government intended to introduce mandatory display of fees a year ago.
Another poster who spotted the 2014 date accused EYE of shoddy reporting.
However, yesterday a Welsh Government spokesperson told us: “The legal requirements for agents to show their fees was not a Welsh Government decision.
“It was introduced in the UK Government’s Consumer Rights Act 2015.
“We combined the introduction of the measure with the launch of Rent Smart Wales to minimise the impact on letting agents and give them longer to prepare for the changes.
“The 2014 date in the English version of the letter was unfortunately a misprint.
“It was correct in the Welsh version of the letter and will be amended in all future materials.”
The spokesperson added further clarification, saying that the date should have indeed have been November 2015.
In further answers to questions from EYE, the new Rent Smart Wales has defended its unexpectedly high charges for compulsory licensing.
We asked about its consultation after outrage expressed by Welsh agents.
We were told: “The fees for Rent Smart Wales were developed using the best available data on the number of landlords and commercial letting agents in Wales, the cost of implementing the service – including staff costs – and direct and indirect costs involved in its set-up and ongoing delivery.
“The development of the fees uses many of the principles set out in an All Wales Licensing Expert Panel Toolkit and has been the subject of challenge by colleagues within the council, housing experts across Wales and the Welsh Government.
“Registration and licensing lasts for a period of five years. The fee for an agent who doesn’t employ any staff is the same as the landlord fee, while the fee for all other landlords is as advertised currently.
“We have received feedback in relation to affordability for small businesses and the need for an option to pay by instalments and will reflect on these comments over coming weeks with a view to making appropriate adjustments.”