Article written by Tim Thomas of the RLA dated April 15th 2019
RLA Wales attended the Welsh Labour Conference in Venue Cymru in Llandudno over the weekend. It was a busy weekend, in which Welsh Labour announced plans to axe Section 21. Soon after this announcement, our Vice Chair Douglas Haig (pictured centre) met with First Minister Mark Drakeford AM (pictured right main picture) to find out more about the proposal.
Here, RLA Policy Officer Tim Thomas blogs about the weekend at the conference, including an important announcement the First Minister made at the conference for private landlords in Wales.
RLA Wales attended the Welsh Labour party conference at the weekend. As part of our presence, we had an exhibition stand with the opportunity for members attending the conference to engage with us and to take part in a quiz. The quiz highlighted many misconceptions about the PRS including the fact that repossessions are actually higher in the social sector than the PRS, average rents have only gone up by 0.9% and well below inflation, on average tenancies last for 3.9 years and that satisfaction levels are higher in the PRS than the social sector in Wales. The quiz also highlighted some of the work we had done in improving equalities within the sector with joint work with Tai Pawb with our Open Doors project.
Members of the Welsh Labour Party took part in the quiz, but also a number of senior elected politicians took the opportunity to test their knowledge on the sector. This included engagement with:
- Ann Jones AM, Assembly Member for the Vale of Clwyd, Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales
- Hannah Blythyn AM, Assembly Member of Delyn and Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government
- Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Gower, previous Minister for Housing and currently Minister for Finance and Trefnydd
- Jeremy Miles AM, Assembly Member for Neath and Counsel General for Wales
- Jenny Rathbone AM, Assembly Member for Cardiff Central
- Lee Waters AM, Assembly Member for Llanelli and Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport
The stall also gave us the opportunity to engage with other exhibitors, trade unions and third sector organisations.
During our exhibition stand, we also had the vital opportunity to engage with politicians, some of which had not previously engaged with us and had been critical of the sector. Ann Jones acknowledged that the PRS was vital in tackling housing shortages and that the RLA should be more widely consulted, Joyce Watson also pledged that given her regional role she was in a good position to work with the RLA as she has five local authority areas within her region. Mike Hedges also outlined some of the good work we had done. As some follow up work, I will be sending Joyce Watson AM some of our work on Ecoflex. Enforcement was constantly discussed in the attempt to demonstrate many of the issues the AM’s faced in the surgeries and postbags were already against the law and it was the fact the local authority were not using their powers to enforce. Rebecca Evans was the lucky winner of the RLA’s Penderyn whisky and she said she will get the First Minister to sign it and donate it to a good cause.
We also had an evening meeting with former First Minister, Carwyn Jones, David Rees AM, Stephen Kinnoch MP and Welsh Labour Chief Executive David Hagendyk, where we discussed several issues pertinent to the PRS.
Douglas was also interviewed by BBC Wales where he talked about some of the work we have been doing on Ecoflex, which an opportunity for local authorities to coordinate UK government is funding to tackle the problem of fuel poverty. The funding is open to both the PRS and owner occupied sector and we are highlighting best practice from North Somerset District Council and several authorities based in Devon who open the funding to all properties within the PRS and to owner occupiers with a household income below £30,000. I will be producing media guidance to the BBC in due course.
The main talking point from the weekend was during the First Minister, Mark Drakeford’s speech to conference. He announced that the Welsh Government will be banning Section 21 in Wales, a move which England followed on the Monday following the conference. Our Vice Chairman Douglas Haig already had suspicions this may be announced and managed to get himself and a our Welsh Public Affairs Officer Mathew Norman in with a meeting with Mr. Drakeford immediately after the speech announcement to discuss the implications to our members.
We stressed upon the First Minster that section 21 was fundamental to the sector, and that in most cases (90%) it was the tenant and not the landlords who ended tenancies. However, on occasion when landlords needed to end a tenancy it was mostly due to rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or to sell the property. In order to get possession via the courts in can take a number of months. We also outlined to him the importance about the requirement to reform the courts to avoid a mass exodus of landlords from the sector and that as justice is not devolved this is something to understand before setting timescales with Renting Homes being a case in point.
The First Minster outlined that a consultation will be out shortly, but they aim to start the legislative process in the 4th term of office, which starts in September. He also said that as part of the proposals there would be several others measures to support the proposal.
The weekend highlighted the continued importance of the RLA attending the political conferences, both to ensure they are available first had to address issues being raised and speak to decision makers directly, but also to facilitate the continued requirement to myth bust around the sector as many of those we spoke to had a very distorted view of what happens on the ground.
You can be assured that the RLA will continue to push forwards the views and opinions of hard working landlords at all levels and always be there to support its landlords through the very busy and rapidly changing world of the private rented sector.