It has been a busy month for the policy team at RLA Wales, attending four party conferences in the country and meeting with senior figures including the First Minister in Wales Mark Drakeford AM.
In this blog, policy and public affairs officer Mathew Norman writes about the meetings and events the team have attended over the past month and the key take-aways for landlords.
(main image shows Mark Drakeford AM, right, alongside Mathew Norman, left and Director for Wales Douglas Haig, centre)
Plaid Cymru Conference
We ran a stall during the Plaid Cymru conference and attended their conference dinner. We met with essentially all senior key figures of Plaid Cymru, including their leader Adam Price AM and their Parliamentary leader, the Rt Hon Liz Saville Roberts MP.
Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference
We attended and was engaged with senior members of the Welsh Liberal Democrats such as their leader Jane Dodds during conference and attended their conference dinner with Cllr Joe Carter (shadow housing spokesperson for Cardiff)
Welsh Labour Conference
In our representation to conference we ran a stall during the weekend with a quiz for members, elected and alike of the party on housing law and representations made of the Private Rented Sector. We broke down usual unfounded negative soundbites and granted our winner, the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd and former Housing Minister, Rebecca Evans AM, the bottle of Penderyn Whiskey that was on offer. She assured that the whiskey will be signed by the First Minister and offered as a prize for a charity in future events. We further spoke to several senior cabinet members such as the Deputy Minister for Housing, Hannah Blythyn AM.
Of course, we were present during the announcement by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM on the proposed ‘ban on section 21’. We arranged to discuss our concerns on such a ban with the First Minister where assurances were made that this will be a reform not a simple removal of possession. Matters which have been discussed further in later meetings (discussed below) with his cabinet holder of housing, Julie James AM.
Welsh Conservatives Conference
During our time in the conference we met with many notable members of the party, such as the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP. During the conference we sponsored their pre-drinks reception to their main gala dinner which had a special guest, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP. The Vice Chairman of the RLA, Douglas Haig, addressed the conference during the reception and addressed our concerns on the proposed reforms to section 21.
Meeting with the Housing Minister
Meeting with the Housing Minister discussed regulations to the Renting Homes (fees etc.) (Wales) Act 2019, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and reforms to possession, the ‘ban s21’ announcement from the First Minister.
We learnt, has been already discussed that the regulations for the Welsh Fees Act will be consulted on soon. We expressed our concerns as noted above and we expressed our interests in ensuring that our comments and concerns be noted during the process.
Further we expressed concerns with the section 21 reforms (s173 of the Renting Homes Wales Act in Wales) and what this would mean to the Renting Homes Wales Act and the future of the sector if there wasn’t any reforms in place first before removing section 21. The Minister welcomed our comments and noted our concerns, stating the same as the First Minister, that they didn’t want to see a simple removal of section 21 but wanted reform and to reassure landlords that their properties are safe and able to be repossessed if needed be.
However, she did note that the level of information needed to support a claim that a property is being sold to regain possession will be higher. This did note some concern and alarm by the RLA and we will seek to make our comments and concerns clear if this proposal is brought forward. We expressed concerns that removal of s21 would cause significant disruption to student property lets in the sector who rely on s21 when tenants change tenancies. Such time sensitive changes ensure a secure and swift transfer of tenancies which coincide with academic time tables. Students simply cannot afford the new student high rises in cities such as Cardiff and wish for a homelier setting than that of student digs. Therefore, it is vital that this part of the sector is protected during the reforms.
Further the Minister discussed a possible (paraphrased) ‘HMO bedroom tax’ where if there is a property with a empty room in a student HMO that the landlord will be liable to taxes which would ordinarily be exempt. This wasn’t a clear policy yet, but a matter to which was being reviewed by the Minister. The RLA expressed its concerns on such a idea and will continue to keep the dialog open with the Minister and her future proposals.
Forums and other conferences
It has been a busy few months, with our attendance at several forums, most notably Conwy Landlord form, we have seen an increase in welsh membership and the amount of times that we have been invited to speak to update members and PRS landlords alike on matters in the sector.
Further we have been in attendance on important matters such as Housing and Poverty, hosted by the Bevan Foundation and the Charted Institute of Housing ‘Make a Stand Cymru’ which discussed matters of domestic abuse and what more can be done by housing associations, local authorities and private rented sector landlords alike.
Recently we were in attendance of the Tai Pawb conference, our partners in the Open doors Project. There were several talks relating to matters of housing in both social and private sector. Such discussions such as the limitations on banks allowing PRS landlords to let to those on UC were discussed.