Tenant support and advice for private renting tenants in Wales?
Article summary: In this article I review official and unofficial support for private tenants in Wales including an overview of Tenant support and advice groups on Facebook.
Taking advice from others is not always easy, we often don’t know what is right or what is wrong, this is why we want to ensure that private renting tenants know where to go for the correct and most helpful advice when it comes to their properties and their renting experience.
Being a private tenant can be incredibly daunting, whether it’s the first house you have ever rented or the fifth. Every house, every landlord and every rental company is different, but what remains the same is the basic landlord tenancy agreement in Wales.
Also housing in Wales is governed by some very different laws to England, so often, the advice you see for UK is really just for England. Over the 20 years of devolution in Wales, housing law and guidance has evolved significantly to a place, where we believe there are slightly better rights for tenants in Wales compared to our neighbours over the border.
There are risks to getting advice on Social media, so first you need to consider the experts:
Shelter Cymru is a fabulous organisation for knowing your rights as a tenant and getting specialist, quality advice or support. Shelter Cymru’s mission is to provide free, independent, expert housing advice as they campaign to overcome the barriers which stand in the way of people in Wales having a decent, secure home. They offer a number of ways to talk with them via helplines, website resources and email support. The only thing I feel missing is any ‘previous advice’ resource, so you might find the answer to your issue without having to submit a form or call them.
Citizens Advice Cymru also give good tenant support and advice. Citizens Advice believe it’s incredibly important for tenants to know their rights and responsibilities, or how to handle a situation where they could find themselves being threatened with eviction, needing advice on finding a place to live or handling issues with their landlords. Citizens Advice also have a helpline specifically created to assist people in hardship as a result of Coronavirus. 0300 330 2177
Note: to learn more about Citizens Advice Cymru, why not watch the TPAS Cymru interview with them by clicking here
Rent Smart Wales is the official licencing authority for Landlords in Wales. It does have resources for tenants and I’m told they are looking to revamp the tenant advice and guides content www.rentsmart.gov.wales/en/tenant/
They promote this service: ‘’If you have concerns about the conduct or your landlord or agent who is licensed by Rent Smart Wales you can report this via our contact us page and we will investigate.’
As well as using the resources above, there is a UK tenant union organisation for private renters, called Acorn. https://acorntheunion.org.uk/ They charge monthly fees to be a member and receive advice and support as and when it is needed. Acorn campaigns for the rights of tenants. Acorn is campaigning for a permanent eviction ban, rent suspensions during crisis’s, equality for lodgers and more. The membership fee is based on your own income, to enable a wider range of renters to join.
So what about Social Media?
There are a number of discussion groups on Facebook that offer advice from other tenants who have experienced the same issues, or professionals who are part of the group themselves. There are good and bad sides to these groups as they are run for tenants by tenants, rather than qualified advocates which can lead to conflicting advice. However, for the most part they can be seen to be helpful, reliable and friendly. Remember there are different legislation across Wales, Scotland, England and NI so some of the advice may or not be correct or might just apply to 1 nation but not another.
In order to help tenants, I wanted to review housing advice groups on Facebook in order for private housing tenants to know how reliable each page is.
Facebook: Tenant Rights
The Tenant Rights Facebook group is made up of 771 members. The page is very active with multiple posts throughout the day, with consistently quick comments on the posts on this page offering help to tenants who are asking for advice. This page does have the issue that members are global, so the advice that members of the group receive can sometimes be wrong, as members are often from America where the rules/laws are different. However, the group as a whole is very friendly and informal, it just may not always be helpful on Welsh specific legal issue for all members.
Facebook: Fair Housing and Renters Rights
The Fair Housing and Renters Rights is made up of 866 members. The page is not always active on a daily basis, but when it is active, the replies to questions offering help are always fast and helpful. This group does have the same issue in that members are global, so the advice offered can be conflicting, which is not always helpful to Welsh tenants who are seeking immediate advice.
Facebook: Private Tenants Help and Advice UK
This Facebook group has 4,200+ members. The page is incredibly active with members posting questions multiple times per day, with quick comments being posted too. This group has professional members who have worked in the housing field and have a good level of experience, so this makes it more of a reliable source of information and advice for tenants. Despite having professional members the general tone of the group is relaxed and friendly, both in the posts and the comments. However, there are complaints that the responses to comments can sometimes be of a jokey nature, and there is a section of very strongly opinionated anti-landlord posters so despite having professional people being members in the group, information can sometimes be misleading or overtly negative, although for the most part comments are helpful.
We have also noticed posts like this, which concerned anti-landlord activists.
Facebook: UK Tenant and Landlord Support and Advice
The UK Tenant and Landlord Support and Advice is made up of over 2,500 members. It is active daily with fast and helpful responses to questions that are asked within the group. The tone of this group is more professional than the rest, but still has a friendly nature in its responses. The downside to this group is that there are regularly ads posted, which members may not want to see as they are there for housing advice, not to buy things.
So what about Nation specific – Scotland and Northern Ireland?
I couldn’t find anything that was specific private renter support and self-help but happy to update this article if readers know of any. There is a page for Edinburgh Tenants Federation but it isn’t an advice page, but an up to date news/resource site of housing related stories https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghTenant
So what about Wales?
We know Welsh private renters can get advice, but I wonder whether:
Question: Is there a need for a tenant self-help group to be created that is specifically for Welsh private rental tenants?
Would it be more helpful, as the advice that would be given would specifically benefit Welsh private renters?
Or are the problems with difficult private landlords, damp and rent rises all universal issues?
We already have some good quality support resources like Shelter, Citizens Advice Cymru etc . Do we need the sector promote these resources better?
I’d like to hear what you think? Do you think a private renters advice group for Welsh tenants is needed? Could you help with others get it going?
Please email us at [email protected] with your thoughts.