Insights and Opinions Calum Davies 30/04/2021

Blog: What Welsh parties are promising ahead of the polls

With the Senedd election in less than a week, NRLA Wales has analysed the manifestos of teach of the political parties to see how landlords would fare under their plans.

Marks out of 10 have been goven for “landlord-friendliness”, adoption of NRLA Wales manifesto calls, and attitude towards additional regulation of the private rented sector.

Welsh Labour

Having passed four pieces of primary legislation in the last seven years – including the introduction of Rent Smart Wales, banning tenant fees and the wide-reaching but not-yet-implemented Renting Homes Act – its not surprising there are few PRS-focussed commitments from the Labour Party, which has governed Wales continuously for the last 22 years.

Points of interest for landlords include its pledges to:

  • improve existing homes, helping to tackle fuel poverty
  • improve building safety [and] develop a fire safety fund for existing buildings
  • ensure Rent Smart Wales landlords respond quickly to complaints of racism and hate crime and offer appropriate support

The party has also committed to keeping the 1% increase in Land Transaction Tax charged on second home purchases it introduced just before last Christmas.

When discussing LTT, buy-to-let properties come under the umbrella term of “second homes”.

The issue of second homes is becoming more salient in Welsh politics, particularly since the pandemic started, as concern grows for climbing house prices push local out of the area.

NRLA Wales will continue to speak to policymakers on this issue, explaining private landlords should not be punished through LTT and council tax premiums as they actually provide affordable housing for local people, especially for those priced out of the purchase market and cannot or do not need to take up valuable social housing resources.

The party made another commitment to help those priced out of the PRS.

Further investigation and a reply from Labour confirmed this meant the continued rollout of the 'Welsh Government PRS leading scheme', whereby landlords let their property through the local authority, in return for top-sliced local housing allowance.

NRLA Verdict: 4/10 – help to tackle fuel poverty could lead to better funding for property improvements and a small number of leaseholders will be helped in response to the cladding scandal, but there are no substantial measures to help landlords (or tenants). The LTT premium will continue to hurt until the Party recognises the difference between rental and second homes.

Welsh Conservatives

NRLA calls to give recent regulations affecting the time to bed-in have had an impact, on looking at the manifesto of Wales’ second largest party (in both the UK and Welsh parliaments).

Commitments that will impact the PRS include the adoption of a deposit passport, whereby tenants don’t have to raise a “second deposit” to secure a new property before receiving their previous one back, solving the oft-cited cash-flow problem. This is part of the NRLA tenant passport call. However, it is worth noting the UK Conservative Government has already committed to this, so it seems to be the Welsh Party seeking alignment with its British counterpart.

The manifesto also includes a commitment to “cut Land Transaction Tax (Stamp Duty) to help more families and hard-working people to get onto the housing ladder, by raising the purchase price threshold to £250,000 and scrapping it for first time buyers.”

There is no mention of the premium that affects landlords. However that does not mean it won’t be on the table.

The Welsh Conservatives also want to “establish a Fire Safety Fund to compensate leaseholders for fire safety works and the scourge of tackling unsafe cladding”.

Sadly, the party's manifesto neglects the commitment it made in recent months to support the NRLA call for a Welsh Housing Survey and this is reflected in the final marks.

NRLA Verdict: 6/10 – nothing here that landlords can cheer enthusiastically but also nothing to fear. The cladding money will help but only some, while the LTT is too vague to be judged as a win. However, the introduction of a deposit passport will be welcomed by landlords and tenants alike. Shame they didn’t mention the Welsh Housing Survey.

Plaid Cymru

Since Adam Price became leader of the Party in 2018, the rhetoric on the PRS has changed radically, with more anti-landlord language and policymaking. Sadly, this has been reflected in its manifesto.

It proposes a Fair Rents Bill, which would include measures such as:

  • Ending “no-fault” repossessions and providing tenancies of indefinite duration
  • Capping rent increases and assessing all rents for fairness
  • Make tenancies more transferable between generations
  • Give councils the power to set a Living Rent rule to cap rent in rental pressure zones at a maximum of one third of local average income

The party continues to be the most active player in the PRS when reading its manifesto, with other pledges, saying it will:

  • Introduce an Emergency Mortgage Rescue Scheme giving people the option to become tenants rather than face eviction, with the option to buy back in the future via a shared ownership structure.
  • Work with the police to ensure that in situations of domestic abuse, the default position will be that it is the victims who have the right to remain in their accommodation, unless there are significant safety issues.
  • Strengthen the powers to deal with poor landlords who don’t meet housing standards or social responsibilities. Through Rent Smart Wales, they will be subject to annual vetting and struck off if they fail to comply. Local Authorities will then be given an opportunity to buy these properties to renovate and put out for rental.

Plaid is also determined to tackle the issue of second homes. Like Labour, it does not make the distinction between second and rental properties. Proposals include allowing councils to charge a council tax premium of 200%, trebling the LTT premium, and changing planning laws to cap the number of second homes and ban changing a dwelling from a primary to secondary residence.

NRLA Verdict: 0/10 – Rent controls have proven to be a disaster and we have warned parties of the danger of their introduction. Additionally, Wales has spent over a year passing a possession reform Bill and does not need to go through this again. The understanding of second homes problem is present here too, but with far harsher non-remedies. 

The Others

While UKIP and the Abolish the Assembly Party have nothing to say about the PRS, Reform UK’s “contract” with voters only mentions its wish to keep legislation that allows 100% council tax premiums on second homes.

The Liberal Democrats, who are hoping to retain their one seat in the Senedd, have a fairly balanced manifesto that talks of:

  • setting a clear minimum standard for private rented housing, including energy
  • legislating to ensure private landlords are required to make their homes accessible (for those that may need adaptations for disabilities for instance) by 2030
  • continuing to roll out and widen the Welsh Government’s PRS leasing scheme that address the cladding scandal
  • lifting people out of fuel poverty, creating more energy efficient, self-generating smart homes, and moving towards zero carbon homes.

The manifesto, however does not mention the Welsh Housing Survey commitment the party made last month.

The Greens, who are hoping to win their first Senedd seat, do not discuss the PRS in any depth but do state their commitment to “ensuring sufficient, ongoing investment, and collaborative funding schemes, to enable the retrofitting of existing housing stock to the highest energy efficiency standards”.

However, the party manifesto does state it wants to “return to the principle that houses are homes and not primarily investments", although it does not elaborate.

NRLA Verdicts

Lib Dems – 5/10

Greens – 3/10

Abolish/UKIP/Reform – N/A

Calum Davies

Calum Davies Welsh Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Calum Davies is the NRLA’s Welsh Policy & Public Affairs Officer. After working in communications and research for a political party in the Welsh Parliament, he moved to the NRLA to promote the work of the Association to members, politicians, and stakeholders in Wales. He ensures they are aware of landlord interests when they legislate and regulate in the PRS, helps run the Cardiff Landlord Forum, and develops policy and organises events for NRLA Wales.

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