What is the New Welsh Landlord Licensing Scheme and Does It Apply to Me?
If you own a property in Wales which you rent out, even to a family member or friend and do not use the services of a managing agent, this law will apply to you.
The New Landlord Licensing Scheme, known in the region as Rent Smart Wales, is legislation introduced at the end of 2015 to improve the image and performance of the private rented sector.
The main aim is to tackle the issue of rogue and unprofessional landlords by ensuring that those offering private rented accommodation are registered and, if appropriate, licensed to operate in this sector.
These new rules for landlords have come into force under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014; all landlords offering properties to let in the private, rental sector have to be registered by 23 November 2016.
There is one central register for the whole of Wales to make it easier for landlords and agents to go through the registration and licensing process. Having one central point of contact makes registration and licensing particularly easy for both self-managing landlords and agents who will only need to apply for one licence.
In addition to managing the register for private landlords across Wales, the Rent Smart Wales scheme is also geared to providing information to tenants who are living or looking to live in private, rented properties. Click here for details.
How can a landlord become licensed?
Once registered on the Rent Smart Wales scheme, any private landlords planning to manage the rental property themselves will also need to be licensed. Alternatively, landlords can employ the services of a letting agency, like McCartan Lettings, who also need to be licensed under the new scheme.
To obtain a licence, a landlord or agent must complete a course through Rent Smart Wales or other approved training providers.
Once the training is complete, an application needs to be submitted to Rent Smart Wales for assessment along with the £144 of landlord licence fees (or £186 if you submit a paper application). Providing all the paper work is complete and there are no relevant convictions against the applicant, then the licence will be granted. However, licences can be turned down if the landlord or agent is not deemed ‘fit and proper’ to hols a landlord licence.
How long does a landlord licence last?
The licence for a landlord or agent lasts for 5 years. During that time the licensee must keep all information such as contact details and property details up to date. One overriding condition of maintaining the licence is to follow the Rent Smart Wales Code of Practice which has been created by the Welsh Government to ensure standards of letting and management practices are consistent. Click here for a copy of the code of practice.
Any licence holders who do not comply with the conditions of their licence can have it taken away; this would mean that they would no longer be able to manage the letting or management of any properties themselves.
How do I know if I need to obtain a licence?
You will need to obtain a licence if you are a landlord with properties to let within the private rented sector and you carry out any of the following activities:
- Sourcing tenants; and arranging and conducting viewings
- Tenant referencing including credit checks and interviews
- Preparing a tenancy agreement and property inventories
- Collecting rent
- Acting as the first point of contact for tenants under the tenancy agreement
- Making arrangements to carry our maintenance or repairs
- Carrying out property checks to check on conditions
- Serving notice to end a tenancy.
Normally, the landlord will need to be trained unless you use the services of an agent, in which case you must ensure that the agent is fully licensed. Agents cannot work with landlords who are not registered with Rent Smart Wales.
Even though the new rules for landlords have only been in force a few month, many landlords are finding the whole licensing process very onerous. These landlords are now recognising the benefits of passing the management of their properties onto regulated and qualified agents, like the team at Swansea-based McCartan Lettings, rather than apply for a licence themselves.