Huddersfield academic helps inquiry into Welsh rental property sector

A University of Huddersfield expert has contributed to the Welsh Parliament’s Inquiry on the Private Rented Sector.

Dr Tom Simcock, Research Fellow, and Research Manager of the University’s Healthy Housing Initiative, recently gave formal evidence to the Local Government and Housing Committee at the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff. This was part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Private Rented Sector. 

This inquiry, with its focus on the supply, quality, affordability, and regulation of property in Wales’s private rental sector, presents a pivotal opportunity to examine ways to address critical issues affecting both landlords and renters in light of the cost-of-living crisis. 

As an expert in housing policy and the private rented sector, Dr Simcock was invited to speak to the Committee, having previously given evidence to the Welsh Parliament on the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Act in 2020, ahead of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act of 2016 coming into force in late 2022.

While tenant demand is outstripping supply of available properties, there has been concerns some landlords are selling their properties, so among the questions posed by the committee was whether this is down to the legislation or higher interest rates. 

Speaking on his involvement in the inquiry, Dr Simcock expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to offer evidence-based insights and recommendations:

“As a researcher committed to enhancing our understanding of housing dynamics and their impact on individuals and communities, I am honoured to have had the opportunity to contribute to the Welsh Parliament’s inquiry on the Private Rented Sector. This inquiry holds significant promise for addressing pressing challenges and identifying pathways toward a more equitable and sustainable housing landscape in Wales,” says Dr Simcock.

“There is still a bedding process happening since the Renting Homes Wales Act came in, but it brought in simpler contracts, longer notice periods and more emphasis on landlords ensuring a property is safe and liveable in.

“But with there being increasing demand for rental properties in Wales, there is a question over why landlords might be selling up and leaving the sector when there is a growing need for places to rent. 

“We were asked about whether regulation is leading to landlords leaving the sector, but we feel that the evidence for that is not strong. It is more likely to be down to financial considerations, especially concerning the tax treatment of short-term lets and the current mortgage market.”

Dr Simcock has previous experience of researching the situation for renters in Scotland, having led a project for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Scottish Government. 

Drawing on these findings, Dr Simcock adds: “One of our recommendations was to move from a culture of enforcement to a culture of compliance. Too often, renters face challenging circumstances around disrepair and unreasonable rent increases, it can be costly for renters to try and act against the landlord, especially at the risk of losing their home. We need to get to a place where the burden is on the landlord to show they rent out decent homes and act fairly to their customer.

“We felt the session went well. It was a tough line of questioning, but there is more to do. There is currently a lack of up-to-date data on the private rented sector and a need for further research into the experiences and types of private landlords in Wales. Hopefully, our evidence contributes to this important dialogue on the sector and helps bring about positive change.”

Dr Simcock spoke to the committee alongside:
Dr Bob Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Cardiff University
Dr Edith England, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Dr Josie Henley, Lecturer, Cardiff University