Wales says it is leading the way forward on private rented standards throughout the UK. But rows are mounting.
There are ongoing question marks as to the requirement for letting agents to show their fees, a legal requirement from yesterday, but with apparently a shocking short deadline of just six days.
In another challenge to the new regime, the Residential Landlords Association this morning said that agents in Wales will have to pay much larger, and hitherto undisclosed, fees in order to carry on in business.
The RLA said: “Yesterday Rent Smart Wales, the body behind Wales wide licensing and registration, announced the fees for landlord and agents to become registered and licensed.
“The fees announced are a marked departure from those originally stated during the consultation phases of the Housing (Wales) Act.
“Agents who manage properties as individuals and do not employ staff are required to obtain an agent’s licence at the £144 fee.
“All other agents must pay a whopping fee of £3,728 for an online application.
“Paper application fees will increase to £4,368 when that functionality is available through Rent Smart Wales.
“These fees hit smaller agents (those who employ one or more people) the hardest, as Rent Smart Wales offers only one fee for an agent to become licensed, regardless of how many people the agency employs.
“Furthermore these figures do not include any further training costs, but only the cost of applying for the licence.
“This means that members of staff who undertake management activities may, depending on exactly what duties they complete, need to be trained. Current costs for the agent licence training are £140 per person.”
The RLA said the new Rent Smart Wales scheme is “an expensive, overburdening exercise in paperwork that will do little to target the criminal landlords who refuses to make themselves known”.
Amid the criticisms, Welsh housing minister Lesley Griffith yesterday said: “I am proud Wales is leading the way on improving professionalism across the private rented sector. Our new, landmark scheme will drive up standards by making Wales the first country in the UK where managing landlords and agents are required to undertake training to ensure they are clear on their responsibilities.
“The changes will prevent rogue, and even criminal, landlords and agents from being involved in the management and letting of properties. This will help to protect tenants in the private rented sector – including students, lone parents and young families.
“Rent Smart Wales will also support good landlords and agents by helping them keep abreast of their responsibilities and legal obligations, and raising the reputation of the sector as a whole.”
Yesterday, in a separate requirement, it also became mandatory for all letting agents in Wales to show their fees.
ARLA was yesterday adamant it was not told of this requirement until a few days ago.
An information notice, apparently dated November 2014, was not seen until last week by ARLA.
ARLA, along with others, is now querying whether the “November 2014” was a misprint which should have read “November 2015”.
EYE will be specifically querying with the Wales Government whether the misprint may have been deliberate, but if it was dated November last year, will ask how many people were actually told at the time.