Tuesday 24-11-2015 - 16:29
Yesterday the Welsh Government announced the launch of the ‘Rent Smart Wales’ scheme, a compulsory registration and licensing scheme for landlords in Wales. While NUS Wales welcomes action to improve the market for student renters, this scheme does not regulate letting agents or the exorbitant cost of their fees.
NUS Wales President Beth Button over recent months has been lobbying the Welsh Government to act to protect renters from the scandal of unfair charges – and most recently saw Assembly Members vote down an amendment that would have given the power to Ministers to limit letting agent fees in Wales. While all opposition parties voted in favour of amendments tabled by Plaid Cymru, which would have given Welsh Government the power to restrict charges levied on tenants for preparing letting agreements, Welsh Government Ministers and Labour AMs voted to reject the changes.
NUS Wales has consistently argued vulnerable tenants, including students, are being hit with arbitrary fees sometimes running into hundreds of pounds - just to be able to rent a property. A large proportion of students are estimated to have their property managed by a letting agent, with many regularly charged upwards of £1,000 to secure a property once deposits, fees and rent in advance are taken into account.
However, while the new Renting Homes (Wales) Bill acts to simplify and tighten rules for tenants’ interactions with landlords directly, it does not mention or include letting agencies in its scope.
Beth is bitterly disappointed Welsh Labour didn’t support the proposals and called on all political parties to pledge to abolish unfair letting agency fees ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.
These fees are arbitrary, they are indiscriminate and they hit those who cannot afford it the most. Many letting agencies are targeting and ripping off tenants, and particularly students with unfair charges which can push students into debt from the moment they are starting their studies.
We thank Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Conservatives for both tabling and supporting the motion. We now hope all political parties will send a message to students in the Assembly elections next year that they will put an end to the scandal of what amounts to nothing more than profit making at the expense of vulnerable tenants.