The motion to agree the general principles of the Welsh House Bill was unanimously carried in the Welsh National Assembly this week. The Housing Bill aims to improve the supply, quality and standards of housing in Wales and takes various aspects of housing into account, ranging from tackling homelessness to legislating within the private rented sector. In a positive move for renters, the Housing Bill specifically sets out legislation for compulsory registration and licensing of all landlords and agents. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the bill include a legal requirement for landlords to undertake regular safety inspections, such as electrical inspections, in all private rented housing, so the bill may yet improve.
Currently, 2,000 private landlords are registered with the Landlords Accreditation Wales scheme, a voluntary scheme administered by Cardiff Council. However, is it thought that are between 70,000 and 130,000 private landlords operating in Wales, leaving a vast discrepancy between accredited and unaccredited landlords.
The main benefits of a centralised landlord registration system is that it enforces minimum professional standards in private renting and helps to remove rogue landlords from the sector. Furthermore, it enables tenants to know the rights and responsibilities landlords have, as well as how to contact them and what to do if they need advice or help. In addition, it allows for guidelines and legislation about rent increases, minimum conditions standards and other relevant information be communicated clearly and effectively to all relevant parties. It could fairly be argued, therefore, that all groups stand to gain from the implementation of such a scheme.
However, as Christine Chapman AM, argued, centralised schemes such as this can take significant effort from local authorities to implement and monitor. It is sensible, then, that the resourcing for this will come from fees levied on landlords. Furthermore, the central aim here is to have safeguards in place to assist tenants and support them should they need it, something a register will help to provide.
During the debate, the need to ensure minimum property standards in housing was also brought up: “Tenants should be entitled to a decent standard of accommodation … we have recommended that the Minister sets out the physical standards for private rented housing that the sector should aspire to.”
Within driving up the standards of privately renting homes, Peter Black, MP called for periodic electrical safety inspections and the installation and maintenance of carbon dioxide detectors throughout the sector. Whether such checks are made mandatory or not, it is important that landlords and tenants are kept aware of their respective rights and responsibilities in this area.
Generation Rent is fully in favour of the creation of a landlord register in Wales and we will be following the passage of the bill closely to ensure it includes the best possible protections for renters in the private sector, as well as monitoring how this new legislation is implemented. We hope that political leaders in England will follow suit in supporting the millions of private renters who would benefit from such a scheme.