The 23rd November saw the deadline for complying with Rent Smart Wales passed with thousands of landlords still to register, meaning the size of the challenge ahead for Rent Smart Wales is sizable. There is no doubt that many landlords are still waiting in the queue to have their paperwork processed, or on hold trying to talk to someone from Rent Smart Wales. If you are one of these people, Rent Smart Wales has indicated that you will not be top of their target list for enforcement, as long as you are making genuine efforts to comply with the legislation.
The situation as it stands is entirely of Rent Smart Wales’ own making. The scheme was warned that they risked creating a last-minute rush of landlords trying to comply when they announced that licences would start expiring five years from the date they are issued. This means that your 5-year licence expires 5 years from the day it was granted, not the date enforcement, which started of the 23rd of November 2016. If you were one of the early birds and licensed in November 2015, when the scheme first launched, then you will need to renew your licence in November 2020, whereas those caught in the last-minute rush will renew in November 2021.
The Residential Landlords Association had recommended incentivising early compliance by rewarding those who registered or licensed well before the enforcement date with a discount on the associated fees and having the licence validity date begin on the date of enforcement for all licences. Agent representative bodies agreed with these proposals, but unfortunately, these recommendations were largely ignored.
Aside from processing the plethora of paperwork and revamping their communication strategies, which have fallen short in raising awareness of the new legal requirements, Rent Smart Wales can now begin taking enforcement action against non-compliant landlords and agents. Hopefully early enforcement concentrates on those truly criminal landlords and agents who know the law but choose to ignore it. Many landlords, especially away from the larger cities where so much is targeted, will be unaware of Rent Smart Wales and face enforcement action. Ideally we would like to see an attitude of “educate first” in these situations where a landlord has genuinely been unawares. If landlords and agents continue to ignore the law, then enforcement action should follow.
It looks as if extending the Rent Smart Wales registration deadline and re-setting a licences to start from the same date are out of the question, as the Welsh Government is keen to press ahead despite the well documented and admitted problems with the scheme. The Housing Minster himself conceded the scheme’s overly ambitious timescales for registration have faced delays. Inevitably someone will end up in court as enforcement begins, and we should watch with a keen eye as to exactly how Rent Smart Wales intend to progress, but please don’t let this person be you.
If you are unsure about how landlord registration and licensing might impact you, please look through the RLA Wales Rent Smart Wales blog for more information. If you do not find answers to your unique situation, please do give us a call and we will do what we can to help. Alternatively, you could try and contract Rent Smart Wales directly, but be prepared to wait a while for a written response or listen to some hold music for your afternoon.