The RLA has opposed plans to renew and expand an additional HMO licensing scheme in the Castle, Uplands and St Thomas wards of Swansea.
Currently, an additional licensing scheme is already in place in the Castle and Uplands wards, meaning landlords with HMOs in these areas have to pay for a licence in order to rent out their property lawfully.
Mandatory licensing (which is different to HMO licensing) also applies across the whole of Swansea.
Swansea Council is currently consulting on plans to renew this additional licensing scheme, with the council also intending to bring the ward of St Thomas into the scope of the scheme.
RLA opposition to the plans
The RLA has opposed the planned renewal of the scheme for several reasons, including concerns over the high costs of the proposed licence fee and the fact that landlords in Swansea already have to pay for an annual Rent Smart Wales licence.
The association argues that many landlords could find themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay a local authority an additional licence fee, as well as the Rent Smart Wales fee.
High cost of obtaining a licence
Swansea Council is proposing to charge landlords with rental properties that fall into the scope of additional licensing between £714 and £1020.
The RLA is concerned that this fee is too high, and could lead to landlords having to cover the cost of obtaining a licence by passing this cost on to tenants in the form of increasing rents-doing nothing to address affordability.
“Weak” evidence base for introducing licensing
In Swansea Council’s consultation documents, the council state that:
- 41% of HMOs in the Castle ward were subject to complaints relating to poor waste management, and 38% were related to noise complaints
The RLA argue that this is typical of a general inner-city area, and is the result of social issues and not the lack of bureaucracy surrounding a landlord.
In addition to this, in the St Thomas ward-where the council is proposing to introduce additional licensing-there are only 12 HMOs (as recognized under mandatory licensing criteria).
Therefore, there is insufficient need for a scheme here-especially when additional licensing schemes tend to be introduced in localities with hundreds of HMOs.
In Swansea, planning permission is required to build a HMO. The RLA would like to see the council inspect the HMO property at the point of being notified of any new HMO, rather than introduce a new additional licensing scheme. This would also free up councils staff time- they would be able to enforce existing powers and tackle the minority of criminal landlords, and landlords would be able to focus on improving property standards rather than filling out paperwork.
What does the RLA want to see?
Instead of expanding an ineffective licensing scheme, The RLA has made several suggestions for what it would like to see in Swansea. This includes:
- The City council should use cross-departmental working and effective use of exisitng housing legislation to support tenants and landlords in maintaining tenancies and housing conditions.
- The RLA also advocates using council tax records to identify private rented properties and landlords. Unlike with licensing schemes, this method does not require self-identification by landlords, so it would be harder for criminal landlords top operate under the radar and ignore the scheme-as they do many other regulations
Read the RLA’s response here