RLA Director for Wales, Douglas Haig spoke with BBC Radio Wales recently, discussing the role of the new ‘Housing Bill’ for Wales and the RLA’s take on proposals and implementation.
Please find below a video of the interview and a transcript of the debate in which Douglas expertly communicates the Residential Landlords’ Association stance on the role of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) within the Bill.[youtube width=”600″ height=”400″ video_id=”H-AtF-fns6g”]
The interview was conducted on Monday 18th November 2013;
Reporter: The 1st Housing Bill from the Welsh Government is published today. It includes proposals to tackle the problem of empty properties in Wales; changes to the scheme which is designed to prevent homelessness; and also a restriction on the operation of those unscrupulous landlords. Which would see a register of landlords, mandatory: you have to sign to take on tenants. That is not something that the industry is entirely in favour of. I’m joined by Douglas Haig, Director for Wales for the Residential Landlords’ Association.
First of all, there is a lot of hope on the Housing Bill, housing is a key issue in Wales. On a general level Mr Haig, do you approve of what is going on here?
Haig: This is a very big Bill, it’s covering a lot of different areas with a lot of good things in there. More specifically to the PRS the one very positive thing that we [RLA] agree with is split into two parts in terms of there is the registration and licensing of letting agents and a separate one for landlords. Now we certainly agree with licensing and registering the letting agents because I think overall the industry needs to be professionalised and I think that will start to tackle a lot of the issues we are seeing in the private sector.
In terms of private landlords we don’t particularly support the scheme as it stands. We find that in experience that blanket schemes don’t capture the people they are supposed to.
Reporter: But if your members are law-abiding and are good landlords they have absolutely nothing to fear from being registered, in fact there may be an advantage to it?
Haig: Having spoken to the housing minister a couple of times, he has promised there will be incentives for landlords and we certainly welcome that, I haven’t seen any details but there is more to it than that. It’s not so much that there is anything to fear, it’s the fact that there is a cost in this. Is it a cost-effective way of achieving what we want to achieve, when all the landlords that we already know about are members or members of other accreditation schemes or go to landlord forums or things like that? We already know who they are.
Reporter: If I am a potential tenant, and you are on the register, then I know that I am in safe hands. That’s a business advantage for you!
Haig: Well, if it is advertised correctly. There have been accreditation schemes around for a long period of time unfortunately tenants don’t tend to search out those good landlords. For instance, there is other legislation that has come in like the energy performance certificates [EPCs]which are supposed to advertise better quality of properties in terms of energy efficiency but we rarely get tenants asking for those. But I am supportive of the concept of educating tenants to be asking these questions.
Reporter: There will be a publicity campaign, before this is introduced, if it passes through assembly. So people will told about it first, which is the right way to do it!
Haig: Absolutely, and they have delayed the proposals for the implementation which is a positive thing to enable greater information. Unfortunately, what we feel is going to happen, the bottom end of the market the landlords we want to tackle, the ones we want to get out of the market ultimately, because they are not being picked up by what is happening at the moment, the resources should be focused towards a different scheme that targets them as opposed to registering all landlords in a blanket way.
Reporter: There is a recognition from the government that some of you are very good indeed. Carl Sargeant described the PRS as showing extremes of good and bad practice and he is right, isn’t he? There are some very well intentioned landlords and some that, frankly, shouldn’t be there.
Haig: Absolutely, we as the Residential Landlords’ Association, we kind of divide the landlord market into three.
- Those that are good, well educated, well practicing landlords
- Those criminal landlords that shouldn’t be in the sector: they know what they are doing wrong they know what the law is
- Everybody in between
Often those people in between are the ones that get caught by legislation like this when actually all they need is to be informed a little more about what their rights and obligations are and they can perform better. But we don’t think a compulsory scheme is the right way to do that.