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Rent Even Stupider Wales

Rent Even Stupider Wales

A major housing company in Wales has complained after a controversial landlord registration scheme failed to list it SIX months later, The Eye can disclose.

The housing firm has 400 properties across the UK, and completed the registration form for Rent Smart Wales (RSW) in November with the bank Direct Debit approval given in December.

Yet the delay continued for months afterwards.

An official at RSW apologised and admitted the organisation was coping with a huge backlog.

A source at the housing company told us:  “This wait was awful.

“It doesn’t look good to our clients and affected official tenancy processes, because the council would not accept that we were registered, and the processes were therefore not valid”.

But this is not the first time RSW has been at the centre of controversy.

Last November we reported how the landlord registration scheme was in total chaos on the day of a legal deadline, and more staff had to be recruited.

Many landlords had not officially accounted for their properties, big-name Estate Agents which manage dozens of properties had not registered, and worried callers could not get through.

Landlords The Eye spoke to said the scheme was completely confusing and many were complaining about the money which was now needed.

One was trying to pay for registration of his 11 flats in Cardiff, but the RSW website crashed after just one.

Jenny Rathbone, Labour Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, tweeted that landlords had had months to register and leaving it until the 25th hour risked being fined, but she was accused of “ignorance” by many in the property world.

A landlord told us: “Is she a bit thick or what?

“Firstly the level of information given out by her own party’s Welsh Government has been appalling, secondly licences run from the day you apply, not from the deadline day of November 23, so of course people are going to leave it until the last minute.

“Didn’t they see this coming?!”.

But these were not isolated criticisms of the scheme, and the issue was raised in the Welsh Assembly.

The Welsh Conservative AM Russell George said staff were overwhelmed.

In September the BBC reported: “Back in July, 13,000 landlords had registered with Rent Smart but progress has been slow”.

Yet the Welsh Government (WG) has defended RSW.

The WG Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant told the assembly: “To suggest that they (RSW) are in chaos is completely rubbish”.

RSW said its ‘team’ “consists of 79 posts” but we understand it was forced to take on 10 more staff to try and cope in the early stages of the scheme.

In the weeks before final registration, figures revealed only a minority of landlords had given their details.

RSW was then urged to extend the registration deadline, but it refused.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) showed that just 32,230 out of 130,000 landlords had registered by October 18, despite the fact that those who did not comply were facing a fine.

A landlord registration costs £33.50 if completed online, and £80.50 if done using a paper application form.

This is the cost for each landlord registration, no matter how many rental properties in Wales are included in the registration.

A separate registration must be done for each landlord arrangement – so if a landlord was registering some properties in sole ownership, some as part of a joint-landlord arrangement, and some in company ownership this would entail three separate registrations.

A landlord training course accredited by the WG, is extra and costs around £100 plus VAT.

A landlord licence, which costs more money, is on top.

Douglas Haig, RLA director for Wales, said he was writing to Mr Sargeant, warning that landlords should be properly educated about what they needed to do.

But RSW insisted there had been a large increase in numbers registering as the deadline approached, although it made clear it would not push back the deadline.

An RSW spokesman said at the time: “We have no intention of extending the deadline”.

Yet Mr Haig has said communication had been “poor” with “very few” landlords aware of the scheme in the early days.

He also said the original number employed by RSW had been “grossly underestimated”.

The intention of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 was to boost the supply of affordable, good quality rented housing, and weed out ‘rogue’ landlords.

But many landlords in Wales say the number of rogue ones is tiny and, anyway, they are unlikely to register and go on a training course.

Controversial Labour AM Dawn Bowden has warned fellow Assembly Members some landlords in Wales are asking tenants for sex instead of rent.

She claims she was told the details by an employee at Merthyr Valleys Homes.

A WG spokesman said:  “We will do everything in our power to tackle this issue but amending the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 does not offer a solution”.

Yet Ms Bowden has been disgraced.

The Eye revealed how she was criticised by some of her own constituents for posting on Twitter pictures of her feet on a sun lounger beside a pool in Italy, and freshly squeezed lemon juice as she waited to go to the opera.

A landlord who has been licensed, said: “This whole thing is crazy.

“It is complete overkill, and many of my friends say it is like ‘big brother’

“Haven’t these bloody politicians got anything better to do?!”

One property expert told The Eye: “Training days were running after the deadline which to my mind made the whole thing a farce – because technically those attending would have been criminals.

“The website is incredibly confusing and doesn’t have any video tutorials to help you.

“It’s unbelievable.”

A six month delay in registering a huge housing company is also unbelievable.

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