My thoughts after doing Rent Smart Wales training
Background: The launch of Rent Smart Wales (which licensed Private Sector Landlords) was a welcome development for private renting in Wales. Some of the TPAS Cymru team (inc. myself) decided to do the combined Landlord & Agent training to see what this training provided and whether it supports Landlords and Agents in raising standards
The online course was well presented, easy to follow and very interesting however, I found myself reflecting on a few points. Most are not directly related to Rent Smart Wales but more about wider Welsh housing regulations.
1) Redress schemes.
Part 1: ‘There are three main redress schemes that Rent Smart Wales recognise’. How many tenants know about these options? Can you name all of them?
Part 2: During the first six months of a tenancy, tenants have rights to refer the rent to the rent assessment committee for review if they consider the rent to be above the market rent.
Did you know that? Do you think the average tenant knows that the Residential Property Tribunal exists?
Action: We need to see this information given to tenants as part of new tenancies. We know some landlords do as this but we need more. This is not a landlord versus tenant issue. One of the redress schemes helps sort out failures of Utilities and Telcom providers which can impact tenants’ finances. I've tried twice to reach out to the Residential Property Tribunal to assist publicise their work but I don't get any response.
2) The 200 mile rule? ‘Landlords who live outside of England, Scotland and Wales or more than 200 miles from their rental property are required to appoint a local agent’.
Is 200 miles appropriate? You could own have a property in Abercastle in Pembrokeshire and live in Birmingham (196miles away) but its almost a solid 5 hour drive (without stopping once) according to Google Maps. Same for a Grantham landlord owning one of the many second homes in Abersoch. Just under 200mile and a 5hr 10min non-stop drive. If you live in Dumfries (Scotland) can you directly manage a property in Vale of Clwyd? Let’s also mention within Wales – Its 199 miles to Holyhead form Cardiff with a challenging 4hr 40min non-stop drive.
This 200mile rule feels like it enables absent landlords.
3) EPC and HMOs. ‘A full copy of the EPC should be provided to the tenant, made available at marketing/advertising. An EPC is not required if a house is let room by room on separate contracts’.
So are HMO are exempt? Why? – aside from students, some of the poorest, most desperate of society live in HMOs. No EPC standards for their homes? Is that right?
4) HMOs. Failure to comply with HMO Licensing schemes. I was a bit disappointed with the consequences on not complying. A few financial fines, that’s about it.
HMOs have a number of risks associated with fire safety, environmental health, fire exits, suitability for vulnerable people etc. HMO are also a real flash point in some communities, and they need to be carefully considered. Creating an HMO without correct licensing should have some stronger consequences.
Subjects that liked to have seen more information:
i) Equality/discrimination –this section was a little light for my liking. If we are going to raise standards this subject needed more for the landlords including some challenging quiz questions. As a sector, we must do more to tackle this and the training should have more than a paragraph saying ‘don’t discriminate!’ I’m sure Tai Pawb would be happy to assist in making that section a little stronger.
ii) Landlord Associations. – again, only a tiny mention. An informed landlord with model contracts, up to date briefing to legislation, access to support and guidance etc should also benefit the tenant and help raise standards. From what I've seen, the resources and support that RLA members get at being better landlords is impressive. I understand its personal choice but it need to be more than a short paragraph.
Subjects that I’m still not much wiser about after doing the training:
i) Licences: A licence is where someone is allowed to occupy property but does not have a tenancy. I've since clarified with team members, but at the time I needed some examples at the time to get my head around that.
ii) Rented Homes Act. The Act will also help protect people from being evicted simply for complaining about the condition of a property. I hope so, but again I like a nice example to help people understand.
iii) Estate agents are regulated by Money Laundering Regulations, but Letting Agents aren’t. – not sure why. I would have thought a letting agency was a productive place to start the placement and layering stages of laundering.
Final point: I did the online course in a day and passed. You can’t get into the Rent Smart Wales material after that or pay for a download or hard copy to refer to later. A real shame as all I’m left with is a few scribbled notes. By next week, I will struggle to remember all the Section 8 grounds for possession and already can’t remember what the legal term ‘Estoppel’ is ! I would like to have referred to the material going forward.