Welsh government ready to revolutionise private rented sector

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation into reforming the private rented sector in Wales.

Proposals include ditching ASTs in favour of simplified, standard contracts. They would contained a ‘prohibited conduct’ term to deal with anti-social behaviour.

The Renting Homes white paper says the objective is to create uniformity between local authorities, housing associations and private landlords.

Carl Sargeant, minister for housing and regeneration, said: “I am determined to improve the efficiency of our housing system, and this groundbreaking legislation is a significant step forward. These proposals will create a level playing field for all landlords and also provide a fairer deal for tenants, irrespective of who they rent their home from.”

The closing date for comments is August 16. It is planned that a bill would be introduced in 2015.

The Welsh Government is additionally planning a mandatory licensing scheme (WALLS – Welsh Agents and Landlords Licensing Scheme) following a consultation last year.

The Residential Landlords Association has said it is fiercely opposed to it, and said the concept is based on ideology not evidence.

Douglas Haig, director for Wales for the RLA, said: “We agree that changes are needed to the private rented sector, namely to improve the capacity of local authorities to enforce existing regulations and bring swifter prosecutions against criminal landlords who blight tenants’ lives.

“Based on our discussions with officials, we are now seriously concerned at the extent to which policy is being made up without any detailed understanding about the private rented sector in Wales.

“Without the establishment of a Welsh Housing Survey, similar to that produced in England, ministers have no official information on what rents in the private sector are really doing; how many people actually live in the sector; and the quality of accommodation across all housing tenures, to name just a few areas. It should be noted also that the English Housing Survey is able to obtain the information it does without any national registration scheme.

“Given the absence of reliable, official information, we are seriously concerned that policy is being made without a proper understanding of what problems need addressing and the best policy ideas and tools to address them. We are concerned that policy is being based on gut instincts and ideology, rather than hard evidence.

“We urge ministers to think again.”

He added: “Rather than adding yet more layers of bureaucracy on the army of individuals and couples that make up the bulk of the country’s landlords, ministers should turn their attention first to lettings agents which have remained unregulated for far too long.”