Rent Smart Wales
The Welsh Government is set to enact the policy following the passing of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 in the National Assembly for Wales. The official branding is ‘Rent Smart Wales’.
Private rented sector
All landlords in the private rented sector will be required to be registered and suitably trained as ‘fit and proper’. The Welsh Government are hoping to improve standards in this sector. The licence issued will last for five years and all licence holders are required to comply with the Code of Practice containing letting and management standards. The licensing authority will also be able to include other conditions as applicable. Licences can be revoked if a condition is breached or if the landlord is no longer considered ‘fit and proper’. If landlords are not licensed they must arrange for a licensed letting agent to carry out activities on their behalf. It is expected that the requirement to register and become licensed will come into force this autumn 2015. Landlords could soon be prevented from successfully using a Section 21 Notice if they rent out and manage properties under separate names/corporate entities without obtaining the required multiple licences.
The Act includes a new strengthened duty on local authorities to take reasonable steps to prevent and relieve homelessness, with an emphasis on prevention and extension of the definition of “Threatened with Homelessness” from 28 days to 56 days. Local authorities will be able to discharge their homelessness duty through suitable accommodation in the private rented housing sector as long as it is likely to last for six months.
Gypsies and Travellers
The Act requires local authorities to undertake Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments and includes a duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers where a need has been identified in those Assessments, which is likely to commence in March 2016. Where the need for sites has been identified, but not met, there is a power which enables Welsh Ministers to compel local authorities to provide sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities. Sites will need planning permission in the same way as any other development.
Standards for local authority tenants
The eleven local housing authorities which have retained their stock will have to ensure that all existing properties meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard by 2020 and that the standard is maintained. The Welsh Ministers have developed a new policy for social housing rents that will be applied consistently by all social landlords and reflect the type, size, location and quality of the landlord’s properties and will need to be adopted by all local housing authorities following exit from the current Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system. The Act also puts in place the necessary arrangements, procedures and timescales to enable local housing authorities to exit the subsidy system, enabling local authorities to become self-financing.
Local authorities will have the power to introduce, should they wish to do so, an increased rate of council tax as another means of tackling the problem of empty homes and the impact on local housing supply in some areas.
Fully mutual housing associations
In allowing fully mutual housing co-operatives to grant assured tenancies, it will allow them to use standard and well-understood tenancy agreements and remove a known difficulty with occupancy agreements between cooperatives and their members.