New Publication: Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill – Bill Summary

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

This Bill Summary is provided to support the Assembly’s scrutiny of the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill.  The Bill will restrict, and then ultimately end, the Right to Buy (including the Preserved Right to Buy and Extended Right to Buy) and the Right to Acquire in Wales.  The Welsh Government’s stated purpose of the Bill is to safeguard Wales’ social housing stock for people who are unable to acquire homes through the housing market.  It considers that this approach is based on the sustainable development principle of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and will also encourage local authorities and housing associations to invest in new social housing.

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Warm Homes for Wales

This article was originally published on 30 March 2017. It is being reposted ahead of the Individual Members’ Debate on home energy efficiency and fuel poverty in Plenary on 28 June 2017.

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

With a number of the big energy suppliers announcing rises in the cost of electricity and gas in recent weeks, fuel poverty is back in the headlines. While the Welsh Government cannot influence the cost of energy or make people switch suppliers, it can, and does, deliver programmes that seek to improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel poverty and tackle climate change.

Keep Reading

Warm Homes for Wales

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

With a number of the big energy suppliers announcing rises in the cost of electricity and gas in recent weeks, fuel poverty is back in the headlines. While the Welsh Government cannot influence the cost of energy or make people switch suppliers, it can, and does, deliver programmes that seek to improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel poverty and tackle climate change.

Continue Reading

Warm Homes for Wales

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

With a number of the big energy suppliers announcing rises in the cost of electricity and gas in recent weeks, fuel poverty is back in the headlines. While the Welsh Government cannot influence the cost of energy or make people switch suppliers, it can, and does, deliver programmes that seek to improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel poverty and tackle climate change.

Continue Reading

The National Development Framework for Wales: what is it and when is it due?

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

The approach to strategic land use planning in Wales is changing. The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 introduces two new levels of development plan, which will sit above the existing local development plans (LDPs):

  • A National Development Framework (NDF) covering the whole of Wales. The NDF will set out the Welsh Government’s policies on development and land use in a spatial context, and replace the Wales Spatial Plan; and
  • Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) – these are regional plans that will sit between the NDF and LDPs in certain parts of Wales, and will deal with issues that cut across a number of local planning authority areas (but are not of national significance).

This post focuses on the NDF; further reading on SDPs and LDPs can be found in our local planning policy briefing (PDF 1MB) and in the Welsh Government’s Development Plan Prospectus.

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Time runs out for landlords and agents

22 November 2016

Article by Jonathan Baxter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Terraced housing

Image from Geograph by Robin Stott. Licensed under Creative Commons.

A year after the launch of Rent Smart Wales, 23 November 2016 marks the beginning of the next phase of the scheme’s implementation as the remaining sections of Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 are commenced.  From that date, private sector landlords and agents who have failed to comply with the new requirements to register and obtain a licence face a range of potential penalties. This includes the prospect of rent having to be repaid to tenants, being unable to evict a tenant and even criminal prosecution.

What are the new requirements?

There are two aspects to the scheme: registration and licensing.

Registration requires all landlords with properties in Wales let under a ‘domestic tenancy’ to register their personal details, and details of their rental properties, with Rent Smart Wales. Rent Smart Wales is the service within Cardiff Council that manages the scheme for the whole of Wales.  ‘Domestic tenancy’ includes assured, assured shorthold and regulated tenancies – that’s the vast majority of tenancies in the private rented sector.  It doesn’t, for example, include landlords who let a room in their own home under a lodger type arrangement (as there wouldn’t be a ‘domestic tenancy’).  Landlords have to pay a fee to register and the application can be completed online, or on paper – but a paper application will cost more.  Registration lasts for five years.

Some landlords will also require a licence, as will agents.

A landlord will need a licence if they undertake lettings or management activities in relation to their own property. These are defined in the legislation, and include things like arranging viewings, organising repairs and collecting the rent.  A full list is available on the Rent Smart Wales website.

Agents will require a licence if they undertake lettings or management work, as defined in the legislation. An ‘agent’ does not necessarily have to be a professional letting agent – it could be an informal arrangement such as managing a property on behalf of a friend or relative.  There are some exemptions for agents who only undertake very limited work, but the vast majority of agents will need a licence.  Full details of when an agent will need a licence are available on the Rent Smart Wales website.

Applying for a licence

In addition to paying a fee, landlords and agents have to undertake training to get a licence and also be ‘fit and proper persons’. Licences will be issued subject to a range of conditions.  For agents, there will be a licence condition that requires them to have Client Money Protection, Professional Indemnity Insurance and Membership of a Redress Scheme within six weeks.  Many agents who are members of professional bodies will have all three already as part of their membership.

All licences will be subject to a condition that the Code of Practice issued by the Welsh Government is complied with.

Rent Smart Wales must determine licence applications within eight weeks of receipt. Once issued, the licence will last for five years.

What about other licensing schemes?

Some properties must be licensed under the Housing Act 2004.  Most notably, certain Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) need to be licensed by the local authority.  In some areas, where there are selective licensing schemes, other rental properties will also need a licence.  The Rent Smart Wales registration and licensing requirements are in addition to any other requirements for a specific property to be licensed.

Reaction from the sector

There have been some concerns expressed by groups representing landlords that there is not sufficient awareness of the new requirements amongst private landlords.  The Welsh Government estimates that there are somewhere between 70,000 and 130,000 private sector landlords in Wales.  The latest figures (as at 21 November 2016) from Rent Smart Wales suggest around 55,000 landlords have registered, and a further 12,700 applications have been started but not yet completed.

Further information

The Rent Smart Wales website provides a wealth of information that will answer most common queries about the scheme. Landlords should also be able to get advice from landlord associations.  Tenants can check whether their landlord and agent have complied with the new requirements by using the search facility on the Rent Smart Wales website.

Housing associations in Wales: public or private bodies?

29 September 2016

Article by Jonathan Baxter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Image from Flikr by Part 3 Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today (29 September 2016) announced that Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in Wales are to be reclassified as public sector bodies in the national accounts.  This decision could negatively impact on the ability of RSLs (what most of us call housing associations) to access private finance, and consequently their ability to develop affordable housing.  Analogous decisions have also been announced by ONS today in respect of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Today’s announcement had been widely expected by the sector. It is not a political decision, but rather the ONS following international rules on public sector accounting.  In 2015, the ONS reclassified English Private Registered Providers (PRPs) of social housing, also colloquially called housing associations, as public sector bodies.  That decision highlighted the amount of government control over associations as the reason for reclassifying them.  The UK Government subsequently brought forward a number of measures in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to deregulate the sector in England, so the ONS will be able to return English PRPs to the private sector at some point in the near future.  It now seems that the Welsh Government may have to do the same and bring forward its own legislation to reduce the government controls identified by the ONS.

The practical impact of the reclassification is to put housing association debt on the public balance sheet for national accounting purposes, greatly increasing public sector borrowing much to the chagrin of HM Treasury. In Wales, this could add over £2 billion of debt to the public sector balance sheet.  In England, the decision increased public sector net debt by almost £60 billion.

The ONS made its decision to classify PRPs as public sector bodies in England primarily on the basis of legislative and regulatory changes brought about through the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. The ONS found that the amount of control exercised by the UK Government over housing associations, primarily through the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), meant they should be classed as part of the public sector.  Although the regulation of Welsh Housing Associations is primarily governed by the Housing Act 1996, many of the same controls are exercised by the Welsh Government (in its role as the regulator of housing associations) as by the HCA.  That is reflected in today’s statement by ONS, which says they:

…concluded that RSLs are subject to public sector control due to, amongst other things: Welsh Ministers’ powers over the management of an RSL, Welsh Ministers’ consent powers over the disposal of land and the disposal of housing assets, and Welsh Ministers’ powers over constitutional changes of an RSL.

While the Welsh Government is expected to be given some time to resolve this issue before the Treasury seeks to impose controls on borrowing, a decision on the way forward is likely to be made soon to avoid uncertainty, particularly amongst lenders. Community Housing Cymru, which is the representative body for housing associations in Wales, has issued a statement and will issue legal advice to its Members shortly.

Moves towards what could be perceived as deregulation of the sector may be resisted by some stakeholders, but there may be little alternative. If Welsh housing associations remain part of the public sector (for accounting purposes at least) they could be subject to Treasury caps on borrowing and the target of delivering 20,000 affordable homes by the end of the Fifth Assembly could be far more challenging.