Rent Smart Wales: Mandatory inspections introduced
Rent Smart Wales celebrates its fifth anniversary as Wales’ “single licensing authority” on November 23, but will the landlords it regulates be doing the same?
The five-year anniversary also marks the first renewal date for the registrations and licences – which have a five-year lifespan.
New conditions, introduced for anyone signing up on 1 July 2020 and onwards, will now apply once these landlords have renewed, including the requirement for a mandatory property inspection.
It is best practice for landlords and agents to carry out regular inspections but under the new rules, inspections of single tenancy properties must be carried out annually, and every six months if you have a HMO.
In addition to this both must be inspected within the first two to six months of a new tenancy, with RSW creating a template inspection form for you to fill and keep for your records.
The condition replaces that which requires a landlord whose main residence/business address is located in Britain but is 200+ miles from the rental property, to either appoint a licensed local agent or employ a locally based member of staff to assist in the management of the rental property.
The NRLA has made it clear it believes the new condition is unnecessary – and the mutual obligations provided for in tenancy agreements are sufficient.
If mandatory inspections must be introduced, we suggested they could be in the Welsh Government’s upcoming model standard occupancy contracts.
Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests some tenants would not be happy with such inspections, unnecessarily disturbing their lives.
We also reminded Rent Smart Wales that landlords must provide the property to the tenant in a suitable state under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, and soon Fitness for Human Habitation, and it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to prove this.
Therefore, it is superior to any other inspection arrangements.
In addition to these cases, the NRLA also argued that unscrupulous landlords that do not conform to HHSRS and FFHH standards will unlikely volunteer themselves to registration and licensing.
Renting Homes Act 2016
In addition to the inspections, licensees will also have to undertake training on the Renting Homes Act 2016 prior to or within three months of its implementation.
This is not necessarily a bad development as the Act will fundamentally change the Welsh PRS and the way a landlord must run their business.
However, the newest licensees - who took out licences before July 2020 - will not be required to undertake the training until they renew in five years’ time in 2025. This is despite the new legislation being due for implementation in spring 2022.
Any new applicants after the date of implementation will need to complete the training before they apply for their licence for the first time or renewal.
While we do not agree with all the changes, the NRLA did celebrate some success in shaping the original proposals to make them clearer for landlords.
We were given confirmation that a tenant does NOT have to sign an inspection report; RSW has assured us guidance WILL be provided on how to act if the tenant refuses access to a property to complete an inspection; and landlords WILL be able to provide the tenant information in digital form instead of physically.
Landlords and agents can also soon expect details on a new training matrix, including Continuous Professional Development points, before renewals begin.
The evolution of the training offer will allow more flexibility in learning and diversity of subjects. The NRLA will contribute to this having been working hard in conjunction with Tai Pawb and Platfform to deliver a course, tailored for landlords, on dealing with mental health challenges.
Next month, the NRLA will publish a report on RSW, evaluating its performance in its first period of operation, incorporating a wide data set including a survey of landlords.
You can read these new conditions in full here.