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Agenda Item No 9

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 20th September 2016

 

Report of the Director of Environment and Housing

 

Update on Rent Smart Wales

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. This report provides an update for Elected Members on the implementation across the SRS of Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, specifically the Welsh Landlord and Agent Registration and Licensing Scheme, known as Rent Smart Wales.

Recommendations

  1. The Committee is asked to consider and note the information within the attached report.
  2. The Committee is asked to agree that the Head of Shared Regulatory Services sign a Memorandum of Understanding which will outline the collaborative arrangements between the respective Councils within the SRS and the Single Licensing Authority, including enforcement protocols and general governance arrangements.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. The report apprises the Committee of the work of the service and the progress and planned schedule of the Rent Smart Wales implementation programme.
  2. The Head of Shared Regulatory Service is authorised to sign the MOU under the terms of the Joint Working Agreement (General Responsibilities).

Background

  1. The Housing (Wales) Act received Royal Assent in September 2014.
  2. Part 1 of the Act relates to regulation of the private rented sector (PRS). The Act places new obligations on private landlords of rental properties to register with the designated Licensing Authority. It will also result in all rental properties having a licensed landlord and/or agent in place to undertake letting and management tasks.
  3. In order for a person to get a licence they must be deemed 'fit and proper' and have undertaken training approved by the Licensing Authority; once licensed they will have an ongoing condition to comply with a Welsh Government (WG) approved letting and management Code of Practice and any other condition the Licensing Authority feels necessary to impose.
  4. The Welsh Government appointed Cardiff Council as the Designated Single Licensing Authority in 2015 and the brand 'Rent Smart Wales' was adopted for use by the Licensing Authority.

Relevant Issues and Options

Project Brief

  1. There is no doubt that a single Licensing Authority is the most effective way of delivering this project across Wales. This has numerous benefits for the customer in terms of ease of access to the service, consistency of approach (particularly important for landlords with rented property across local Authority boundaries), reduced cost and application of best practice. It also has benefits for Wales in that the brand becomes easily recognisable and clearly identified as a Wales project.
  2. The Act creates enforcement powers for the varying offences created under the legislation for non- compliant landlords and agents so that they can be used by both the Licensing Authority or by the LA where the dwelling to which an offence has occurred arises.
  3. These arrangements have been captured in a Memorandum of Understanding. The principal role of the Licensing Authority is to establish and maintain a register of landlords and to grant licences to ensure landlords and /or managing agents who are involved in the letting and/or managing of a property are licensed to do so. A person who is licensed under the Act must be 'fit and proper' and have undergone minimum suitable training to do so.
  4. There are between 70-130,000 landlords in Wales. The SRS local authority areas account for some 25% of all the PRS in Wales and as such we are a key player in ensuring that the scheme of mandatory registration and licensing is implemented successfully.

Work to Date

  1. The requirement to register a property came into force on the 23rd November 2015. However, the enforcement provisions contained in the Act will not be implemented until the 23rd November 2016 to allow landlords and agents a 12 month period to comply with the new legal obligations. In this period both the Licensing Authority and the 22 Welsh Authorities have been active in publicising the new legislation and preparing for implementation.
  2. To this end Welsh Government provided grant money of approximately £13,000 in January 2016 to each Local Authority to assist with the project. The money had to be used by March 2016 and across the SRS we took part in a number of initiatives including awareness training of staff, training for landlords/agents, direct mail to stakeholders and advertising. The promotion of Rent Smart Wales is now part of the teams' day to day work when engaging with landlords and RSW information is included in all correspondence and HMO Licensing application.

Programme for 2016/17

  1. As we move toward November 2016 more emphasis is being placed on the enforcement deadline. When enforcement is implemented the messages from the Council in the form of marketing and communication will change and dovetail with Rent Smart Wales media work stream.
  2. Welsh Government have provided a pro-rata sum of money to each Welsh Local Authority to ensure sufficient resource is made available for effective implementation of the legislation. Across the SRS this amounts to £129,000 and this has allowed us to dedicate a number of Senior Officers to Rent Smart Wales work.
  3. Work planned or currently taking place includes additional targeted promotion and advertising using the three Councils' media, in conjunction with Rent Smart Wales. Further training and awareness will be undertaken within key parts of the Council that have contact with landlords and agents, this includes training of the university and student union advisors within the Cardiff area. Further targeting of known problem landlords and agents will be developed as the deadline for enforcement approaches and we will work closely in liaison with RSW to ensure we act proportionally and in accordance with our enforcement policies in using the legislation to improve Housing Standards across the SRS.

Future Work

  1. The new legislation provides an opportunity to improve the standard of management in the private rented sector and to enable Local Authorities to have a complete picture of the number and location of rented properties within their area. It dovetails with existing licensing schemes that exist within the SRS for Houses in Multiple Occupation and will raise the profile of rights and responsibilities within the private rented sector. It is anticipated that this will increase demands on SRS staff within Neighbourhood Services teams. The additional work associated with enforcement of the legislation going forward can be reclaimed through the MOU through re-distribution of the fees and income collected as part of the SLA function to each of the Councils.
  2. The initial grant by WG to Local Authorities for 2016/7 is to be reviewed by WG in the light of implementation and a decision on the availability for future grants in 2017/8 taken early in 2017.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. WG has provided a grant to Local Authorities to take account of additional enforcement and promotional work in 2016/7. This will be reviewed for 2017/8 and the Memorandum of Understanding provides a process for redistribution of fees from Rent Smart Wales to Local Authorities which will be developed in accordance with the enforcement protocol.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no immediate sustainability or climate change implications associated with this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Single Licensing Authority appointed by Welsh Government for the purposes of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 is Cardiff County Council. It operates the scheme for all other Local Authorities in Wales . The Memorandum of Understanding sets out the relationship between the Single Licensing Authority and how each party discharges their duties under the Act.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The key service and improvement objectives contained in the SRS Business Plan identify and link to the Corporate Plans of each Council.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The adopted Scrutiny regime will engage in the review and developments of plans, policies and strategies that support the corporate objectives of each Council.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. No specific consultation has been undertaken in relation to this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. The SRS is currently scrutinised through the arrangements in place at each partner Council.

Contact Officer

Will Lane - Operational Manager - Neighbourhood Services

Officers Consulted

Assistant Chief Executive, Bridgend County Borough Council

Director of Environment, City of Cardiff Council

Head of Shared Regulatory Services

Legal Services, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Accountant, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Environment and Housing

 

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