Our Future Renting Wales conference is only a few days away, and here Policy Officer Mathew Norman writes about an issue relating to Rent Smart Wales, that some of our members have been in touch with the team about.
You can hear the latest on Rent Smart Wales, and other issues such as Brexit and the fee ban, at our Future Renting Wales conference on Thursday 29th November.
Rejection is not something that we all like, especially when you think you have followed all the rules and guidance.
This is something that one our members faced when they found out that their sections 21 and 8 were invalid when served in Wales.
The member was licensed and had appointed a licensed and trained agent as is set in their requirements to hold a valid licence here in Wales. The member’s tenant was in large rent arrears and the member had decided to sell their property and so issued a s21 & 8.
To their amazement it was rejected. Why?
Well the member was informed that according to Rent Smart Wales (RSW) the system didn’t record their agent as managing the property. The member was down as being the licence holder but deemed to be managing the property themselves without a valid licence to do so.
This meant that they couldn’t serve a section 21.
Worse still, they couldn’t rely on the s8 because the agent had served the notice, since the agent was not registered with the member ‘officially’ on RSW, the notice was not valid.
However, this member was fully compliant and up to date. How did this happen?
The bureaucratic click
The ‘error’ occurred months and months ago, when the member went to the RSW website and linked their property to the agent.
The request was sent, and they thought nothing more of it.
Problem was, neither did the agent. The agent failed to see the request and didn’t accept the member as their agent.
However, the agent swears they didn’t receive an email about the request and the member never received an update.
So, the agent is at fault right?
It is your solemn duty as a licenced landlord to ensure that you keep RSW up to date.
S16 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 states:
- A landlord who is registered under section 15 in relation to a rental property must notify the licensing authority (here it is RSW) in writing of the following changes ….
- The appointment of a person to carry out lettings work or property management work on behalf of the landlord in respect of the rental property
So the member did nothing wrong, however in this scenario they were unfairly punished for the way that the system worked.
We worked alongside the member with RSW on this problem.
We stated the following:
We have several concerns:
- There was no notification.
- To the agent – to inform them that the landlord has linked their property to the licence
- To the landlord – to inform that the agent has not accepted the invitation
- There is no redress for the error. The landlord is unfairly penalised for following the correct procedure and doing everything they can to ensure that they are compliant.
- The full reliance on electronic means of notification isn’t fully effective.
- There is no certainty to ensure that the landlord has attached the property to the licence of the correct agent, the system is not clear.
We would recommend:
- That after 7 days of the landlord registering an agent, that a notification should be sent to both agent and landlord that the agent hasn’t/has accepted the invitation. This should be sent by email or text if a number is provided.
- Once the agent has accepted the landlord as the agent to their property, that the register is backdated to the initial date that the landlord registered the agent as the agent for their property.
- If more than 28 days have elapsed since the date of the invitation, a paper letter should be sent to both agent and landlord stating that the agent hasn’t accepted the invitation and that steps should be taken to ensure that the landlord has nominated the correct agent and that the landlord contacts the agent to accept the invitation. Yet again once completed, the register should show that the landlord has an agent for their property from the date of notifying RSW.
The response from Rent Smart Wales
Where a landlord completes a landlord registration and adds a property and states that they do not complete letting and management activities, but instead use an agent.
- They are then required to name the agent responsible.
- This should be done by searching for the agent’s name and selecting the agent.
- The system then sends and an invitation to the nominated agent via the email address on the agent licence application.
- If the invitation is accepted this officially links them to the rental property in our system, and displays as such on the public register.
If the agent cannot be found by searching for them this means that the agent has not created an agent profile on our system. If this is the case there is an option to enter the agent details, including the email address for the invite, to be entered manually.
Landlords do not search for their agent and link to the agent licence application in the system, but instead they enter the agent details manually and provide an email address for the agent manually too, which is not the email address supplied by the agent on their licence application for invitations to be sent to. In these cases, an invite is sent to the email address provided by the landlord and would have been received by the recipient specified by the landlord, but would not have displayed on Correct Agent account as they were not selected by the landlord.
What does the public register display in these situations….
The rental property would display as registered by the landlord, and show the agent nominated as a managing agent, but it would also say that the agent had not accepted responsibility for letting and/or managing it. As such, the additional information also displays: ‘Please search on this agent’s name separately to see if the agent is licensed. Currently this agent is not officially linked to this landlord’s registration’.
I can confirm that the landlord to agent invitations have been tested and are working correctly and invitations are being received by agents when they are connected correctly to rental properties by landlords.
What can we do to assist customers who find themselves in this position…
- Landlords who want to be able to serve section 21s can contact us and we will assist in providing the evidence that the nominated agent is licensed
- You are correct that there is no redress for the error, as this is an error made by the customer in input of the data, however, we will review the information on our webpage to make sure that it is clear enough that landlords should always search for their agent first.
We will be discussing with RSW in the next series of meetings about how RSW is working to see if we can update the system better to reflect the changes that we have suggested.
However, this doesn’t help you in the interim.
So what should I do as a landlord to make sure that this doesn’t happen to me?
Simple, check on RSW to see if your property is not only licenced but also has your agent linked to the property.
If it is not, then contact your agent and request that they accept you on the system, if they are having problems get in contact with RSW and they will assist you.
Failing that, one of our team in the advice services can assist you further.
Basically, keep vigilant and ensure that your request is accepted.