Rent Smart Wales exists to ensure compliance with legislation in the Housing (Wales) Action 2014. In 2015, to simplify the process for landlords, agents and tenants, Cardiff Council was designated as the Licensing Authority to act in partnership and on behalf of all 22 Welsh Local Authorities.
The Licensing Authority processes landlord registrations and grants licences to landlords and agents through a central register. Landlords and agents need only complete one registration, and can self-manage their portfolio of properties under one licence. In order to get a licence, they must be trained in their rights and responsibilities when renting out property to tenants.
Tenants can look up a prospective property online to check whether it is on the register, and also find out who the landlord is. The Licensing Authority has powers to lead enforcement action against landlords and agents that do not comply with their legal obligations on behalf of the Licensing Authority. It is also able to offer tenants information, which includes a Tenant Guide.
The cost of registering as a landlord is £33.50 online (£80.50 on paper) irrespective of the number of properties they own. Agency fees can be considerably higher, dependent on the number of properties to be managed. The licence lasts for five years.
Two years after the leglisation came into effect nearly 4,000 of the estimated 90,000 landlords have failed to register and are effectively letting their properties illegally, despite being given twelve months to comply.
Rent Smart Wales has successfully prosecuted eight landlords and issued 162 fixed penalty notices of £250. Estate agency R Miles Scurlock in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, was prosecuted last week and was fined £4,600.
However, the Residential Landlords Association of Wales said that although in principle it agreed with the scheme, there were some concerns over its effectiveness. Its vice-chairman, Douglas Haig, said: “Valuable resources continue to be directed into yet another bureaucratic scheme that does little to actually improve the quality of housing”.