Taking positive engagement with agents and landlords to 'a wholly new level'
Today the consultation period on proposed housing legislation in Wales comes to a close.
The consultation paper, Meeting the Housing Challenge: Building a consensus for action, was published by the Welsh Government back in December and reported that in March 2010 70% of housing in Wales was owner occupied with 14% in the private rented sector and 16% in social housing. Clearly the private rented sector continues to play an important part of meeting the housing needs of Welsh households.
However, although the government says that the private rented sector is an “increasingly important” part of the housing sector it goes on to express concern about the quality of accommodation and the practise of some landlords:
“We must take our positive engagement with private landlords to a wholly new level, particularly those, often the worst landlords, who are not engaged in current efforts to improve the sector. In addition to committing to landlord registration and training and the regulation of letting/management agencies, we should take further steps to ensure growth and improve quality in the sector”.
So unlike Whitehall, the government in Wales has now expressed its commitment to landlord registration and training and importantly the regulation of letting and management agencies. At this stage it is unclear what the regulation might look like but this is good news for organisations like NFoPP and RICS which have been campaigning for regulation of the sector for many years.
Of course tenancy deposit protection has operated in Wales since 2007 and it will be interesting to see what impact the proposed regulation of lettings agents has in terms of improving the quality of lettings agents in Wales and the services they provide to landlords and tenants. In times of austerity and recession there are continuing financial pressures on lettings agents and it is important for consumers that their rent and deposit money, held by their agent, is properly protected. The client money protection insurance carried by the regulated bodies in the private rented sector is an important safeguard which unregulated agents simply do not offer. And it’s only when things go wrong do consumers realise the extent to which they have been financially exposed if they decide to use an unregulated agent.
Having a working model of a regulated lettings agent sector in Wales will serve as a good comparison with the unregulated sector in England. It is a refreshing aspect of devolution that different policy approaches are being pursued in the countries of the United Kingdom; the devolved administrations are setting an example for central government to seriously consider following.
In Scotland tenancy deposit protection will soon be joining the compulsory landlord registration scheme already in operation. The Northern Ireland Executive is committed to a mandatory landlord registration scheme, and on January 30th the Assembly called for the Department for Social Development to bring forward its legislation for tenancy deposit protection from November in time for the academic year.
According to the Northern Ireland Executive, landlord registration is “a first but essential step in establishing better regulation of the private rented sector”.
Steve Harriott is Chief Executive of The Dispute Service Ltd, which operates the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
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