Wales: residential lettings - the new regime

The new registration and licensing regime, for landlords of residential properties in Wales, came into force on 23 November 2015.

The Welsh Government is introducing a system of compulsory registration for residential landlords in Wales. The scheme, which is being implemented under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, will apply to all landlords of properties let on assured or assured shorthold tenancies. Rent Smart Wales has been established to operate the scheme.

Initially, the scheme will be voluntary. However, it is expected to become mandatory during autumn 2016. Anyone who is involved in the letting of residential property in Wales needs to be aware of the scheme and its requirements. Once the scheme becomes mandatory, it will be  unlawful for unregistered landlords to rent out properties.

All landlords must register with the scheme personally, even if they use an agent to manage their lettings. Applications can be made online through the Rent Smart Wales website for a fee of £33.50 (or £80.50 if the application is made on paper). In registering, landlords will have to declare all rental properties that they own which are situated in Wales.

Tenants will be able to check online whether their landlord is registered. This means that, for any registered landlord, their name and the addresses of each rental property they own within the licensing area will be on a publicly searchable database.

In addition, those landlords who manage their lettings themselves, rather than through a licensed agent, will need to apply for a licence. Again, this involves an application to Rent Smart Wales and a fee of £144.00. In order to obtain a licence, a landlord will be required to attend a one-day training course (similar to the voluntary landlord's courses that were previously offered by Landlord Accreditation Wales). In limited circumstances, landlords will be able to complete their training online.

Many private landlords will potentially be caught by the obligation to obtain a licence. The obligation arises, for example, if a landlord conducts viewings for prospective tenants, prepares the tenancy agreement, prepares the inventory, collects the rent, oversees the maintenance of the property, or carries out inspections.

In addition, the Welsh Government's new Code of Practice for licensed landlords and agents sets out requirements to comply with certain letting standards, as well as recommendations for best practice.