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RSW plants it's flag in the sand

Thursday 01 June 2017

Last week we reported that Rent Smart Wales (RSW) had began enforcement activity under the powers granted to them by the Housing Act (Wales) 2014. Since then RSW have planted their flag firmly in the sand by announcing that they have made their first successful prosecution under the scheme, showing that strong rhetoric will be backed up with action on the ground by teams of enforcement officers.

Robert Ivor Grovell, a Newport landlord was fined £4,400 for operating a dangerous, unlicensed house in multiple occupation and failing to comply with Rent Smart Wales.

Mr Grovell of Llanfrechfa is the first landlord in Wales to be prosecuted for failing to become licensed with Rent Smart Wales. 

Designed to improve standards in the private rental sector, Rent Smart Wales requires private landlords to register and managing landlords and agents to become licensed with the scheme if they manage properties in Wales, even if their offices are based aren't based in Wales.

Mr Grovell was prosecuted under Section 7(5) of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 at Newport Magistrates court for his non-compliance.

The offence was one of a number brought against him by Newport City Council for housing-related offences at a property on Orchard Street in Newport to which Mr Grovell pleaded guilty.

An inspection of the property by Environmental Health officers in December 2016 uncovered serious problems with the design and layout of the property and an escape route blocked with furniture and other items, both of which could have been fatal to tenants in the event of a fire. In addition the property was occupied as a house in multiple occupation but Mr Grovell had failed to apply for the necessary licence from Newport City Council.

Rent Smart Wales checks identified that Mr Grovell was registered but not licensed, even though he was carrying out management activities at the property.

Since the inspection, he has completed the required Rent Smart Wales training and submitted his application for a license.

Bethan Jones, Operational Manager of Rent Smart Wales at Cardiff Council, the single licensing authority for the whole of Wales, said: “This case is a real milestone for Rent Smart Wales, being the first prosecution of a non-compliant landlord.

 “This prosecution sends a strong message to other non-compliant landlords who continue to flout the law and those who haven’t complied should come forward now to avoid action against them>”

In total, Mr Grovell was fined £4,400 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs and victim surcharge of £170.

Councillor Ray Truman, Cabinet Member for Licensing and Regulation at Newport City Council praised officers for their dedication in bringing such a prosecution to court.

“This was a serious breach of regulations covering a house in multiple occupation where the residents were put at risk because of the landlord’s failure to comply with essential regulations aimed at keeping people safe in their home.

“This court case should also remind landlords of the need to license houses in multiple occupation. Failing to do so could end up with an unlimited fine being imposed by the court.

“Newport City Council will continue to be vigilant in ensuring landlords and agents stick to the rules covering their rental properties. Well done to officers for bringing this case to a successful conclusion,” he said.

Sanctions that RSW have at their disposal include prosecution, fixed penalty notices rent stopping and rent repayment orders. In addition, landlords may not be able to secure possession of their property using a section 21 notice, if they are operating outside the law themselves.

A searchable register is now available on the Rent Smart Wales website allowing tenants to check whether landlords and agents are breaking the law.

The process for complying is straightforward and can be completed online so if you haven't already done so, we strongly advise that you do before you too face prosecution. Once completed, a registration and licence lasts for a period of five years.