Who should be registered?
All private landlords must be registered with Rent Smart Wales in respect of each of their domestic tenancies which are intended to be let out. Rental properties include assured shorthold tenancies, assured tenancies or a regulated tenancies. It is an offence not to be registered and landlords can face penalties.
To register, a landlord must provide accurate and up to date information about themselves and their properties. A fee is also payable.
A landlord must have a license if undertaking ‘lettings activities’ or certain kinds of ‘property management activities’. However, a landlord is not required to be licensed if he or she has appointed a licensed agent or responsible person to advertise, let or manage the property on their behalf, as long as the landlord has no role in those activities.
The license is valid for 5 years. In order to keep the license, the landlord or agent must keep to the requirements of Code of Practice.
What legislation applies?
Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (HWA 2014) regulates the private rented sector by requiring landlords to be registered, and any person letting or managing properties (whether the landlord or an agent on behalf of the landlords) to be licensed.
Section 4(1) of the Act requires that a landlord of a dwelling subject to, marketed or offered for let must be registered in respect of the dwelling, but there are exceptions to this set out in section 5.
Section 4(2) confirms that any landlord who fails to comply with the requirement to register in section 4(1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine. However, if proceedings are brought against the landlord and the landlord has a reasonable excuse for not being registered, a landlord will be able to avoid conviction.
A landlord is required to be licensed under section 6 of the HWA 2014 if they are carrying out certain activities. These activities include ‘lettings activities’ defined in section 6(2) and ‘property management activities’ defined in section 7(2) and (3):
The Welsh Ministers can amend the description of activities in sections 6(2) and 7(2) and (3) of the HWA 2014 by order. It is an offence (subject to the exceptions in section 8) if a landlord doesn’t hold a valid license in relation to those activities defined in section 6(2) and 7(2) and (3) unless the landlord appoints a licensed agent to undertake these activities on their behalf.
Agents must also be licensed to carry out certain types of ‘lettings work’ or ‘property management work’ (see sections 10 and 12 of the HWA 2014). An agent who fails to comply with the requirement to be licensed for ‘lettings work’ and ‘property management work’ commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine.
A licensing authority or number of licensing authorities will administer and enforce the system of registration and licensing and the Welsh Ministers must issue a code of practice setting standards relating to letting and managing rental properties and may give guidance or directions to the licensing authority or authorities. A licensing authority must maintain a register for its area containing specified information. There is a formal application to register as a landlord and to apply for a licence as either a landlord or an agent. The licensing authority can revoke the registration of any landlord and there is a mechanism by which a landlord can appeal this decision (residential property tribunal) Currently, Cardiff County Council is the licensing authority designated for the whole of Wales by the Welsh Ministers under section 3 of the 2014 Act.
Before granting a license section 19(2)(a) confirms that the licensing authority must be satisfied that the applicant is a ‘fit and proper’ person to be licensed. Section 20 of the HWA 2014 deals with the requirements for the test.
If a licensing authority revokes, amends or refuses to grant a renewed licence, the applicant has a right of appeal by referring the matter to the Residential Property Tribunal.
A Licensing authority also has enforcement powers to issue fixed penalty notices or to pursue a prosecution against a landlord or agent in respect of an offence under specific provisions of the 2014 Act, in specified circumstances.
Where on any occasion a person authorised in writing for the purpose by a licensing authority has reason to believe that a person has committed an offence under Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (subject to two exceptions), the authorised person may, by notice, offer the person the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction for that offence by payment of a fixed penalty to the authority. Where a person is given such a notice in respect of an offence:
- no proceedings may be issued for that offence before the expiration of the period of 21 days following the date of the notice;
- the person may not be convicted of the offence if the person pays the fixed penalty before the end of that period.
A conviction for contravention of registration and licensing requirements under sections 16 (3), 23 (3), 38 (1) & (4) and 39 (1) & (2) will be dealt with by way of a fine, subject to the relevant levels on the standard scale applying to the offence.
It should also be noted that when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is enacted, some of these provisions may be subject to amendment. Any updates or amendments will be accounted for when the Act is brought into force.