The big problem with renting in Cardiff as people pay more and more 'for a worsening quality of housing'

Woman in wheelchair, who has had to move back to England because she could not afford suitable accommodation to rent. Emma Stapleton, who lives with a disability could not find accommodation in Cardiff which was both accessible and affordable for her.
Emma Stapleton, who had to move back to England because she could not find suitable accommodation to rent in Cardiff -Credit:Emma Stapleton

The renting sector in Cardiff is competitive, with some people expressing frustration that there are not enough houses available to rent, that they are too expensive, with many in poor condition. There are currently calls taking place asking the government to control how much landlords are charging for rented properties right now as prices remain high.

According to the reports published by the UK Parliament Common Library, the average cost-of-living in Cardiff for a single person is around £806 per month, while rent is around £1,000 per month.

One person who has felt the impact of rent increases first hand is Emma Stapleton, who had to move to England after she claimed her landlord raised the rent to a level that was unaffordable for her to stay in her previous rented property in Splott. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.

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For Emma, after not being able to find anything else that was affordable in Cardiff at the time that was also accessible, she made the decision to move back to Derbyshire, where she was able to find a property to rent that was within budget. Emma said: "Being a full-time wheelchair user, I could not find another accessible property anywhere within Cardiff that I could afford. I was hoping to have a little bit more time to look for a cheaper place to rent but that wasn't really the case.

"I also noticed there were a lot of scams for apartments down in the bay and then you look into it and they'd stolen images from other sites, so they weren't actually landlords or anything. Trying to find a place that would work for like £800 or under there is just nothing, there isn't anything.

"Everything starts at £800, £900 and then just goes further up. Then you've also got shared houses and they're also wanting £800, £900 per person. Prices seem to have gone up and up and up and up and there's just nothing being done about it. I had been on Cardiff Council's waiting list for an accessible place since 2018 but had been offered nothing.

"I had been on the social housing register in Cardiff, but I'd also applied to Derbyshire because I've got family up here, and luckily, this was so lucky - in January, I was offered a sight-unseen two bedroom bungalow, front and rear garden with a wet room for £550 a month so it was like, no brainer! I'm getting out of Cardiff."

When asked if she thought tighter rent control was a good idea, Emma said: "I think a lot of landlords don't care about the tenants. They just care about how much money they can get. And I don't know whether lots of them just want to get people out so they can charge new tenants even more every month.

The renting landscape in Cardiff

A representative from ACORN the union, which has started one of the latest campaigns for rent control in Cardiff - Holly Firmin, said she'd seen a large amount of people from Cardiff expressing their frustrations with the quality of housing for tenants right now. She believed the amount landlords were charging was disproportionate to the quality of life which people were subjected to.

Holly told WalesOnline: “I’m getting emails from people saying that they really feel that what they’re being asked to do is pay more for a worsening quality of housing, basically. It might be that they have been in properties for, let’s say, a couple of years and they’ve complained about repairs and stuff like that, but now landlords are actually charging them more even if there are issues.”

When it comes to what rights renters have if they are facing an issue which their landlord won't solve, even if they are being charged high amounts of rent, Holly noted that this was where things were getting difficult. She said: "The Independent Homes Wales Act which has some reforms to the private rented sector were initially decided on in 2017 by the Welsh Government and there is now an official list of conditions which are considered to be unfit for human habitation.

"But what we've found from people that get in touch with us is that even though these rights that would mean you can take the landlord to court or to eventually claim back rent - these things take time, money and sophisticated understanding of the law which again stacks the cards against tenants."

The average private rent for Wales was £727 in March, 2024, up 9.0% (£60) from a year earlier, with the average price of a one-bedroom property in Cardiff being £784, according to the Office for National Statistics. Holly’s colleague, Stephen Heinson recently took to Clifton Street in Cardiff to find out what the general feeling was in the area, and ask whether people felt that rent was too high in Cardiff.

He wrote on X, previously known as Twitter: “I’m out with @ACORNCardiff members asking people on Clifton Street: is the rent too high in Cardiff? Have a guess at how many people are saying no.”

But not everyone thinks that rent controls are the way forward. Propertymark members have expressed their dislike towards rent controls in Wales following the publication of a Summary of Responses to the Green Paper Call for Evidence on Securing a Path towards Adequate Housing – including Fair Rents and Affordability.

Tim Thomas, policy and campaigns officer at Propertymark, said: “We are disappointed the prospect of damaging rent controls has been included within the widely supported debate of enshrining adequate housing into law, which we support. Given the substantial damage that rent controls have had on the private rental sector in Scotland, it would be a mistake for Wales to follow suit."

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He added: “Instead, the Welsh Government should focus on reinforcing existing legislation, remove any barriers to build more adequate homes, and improving the way they collect their data. To this end, a far more equitable solution would be to stimulate the supply of affordable homes in the private rented sector, by adopting progressive property taxation.

“One option open to the Welsh Government would be to reduce levels of Land Transaction Tax for landlords’ properties or an exemption of new long-term rental properties from the 4% LTT levy on additional homes. Propertymark will continue to work with the Welsh Government to try and find solutions on building more adequate homes and avoid rent controls.”

So what causes mould and damp in homes? We asked Cardiff surveyor Jonathan Graham, who said: "Mould can be a complex thing to find a cause for. Sometimes it can be due to a defect with the house and sometimes it can be down to a lifestyle issue, or a combination of the two.

"I've been in some houses where people are drying their clothes indoors, not using an extractor fan or opening windows and that can cause issues. But it can also be down to external things like a problem in a building or the weather. If people are doing everything they can and they're still getting an issue, then you've got to look at what else is causing it."

Rent controls and the Welsh Government's consultation

The consultation, 'The Launch of a Green Paper Call for Evidence on securing a path towards Adequate Housing- including Fair Rents and Affordability' was announced in June, 2023, and the Government recently shared some of the responses that have been gathered following this development, but a decision on this has not yet been reached.

Updating WalesOnline on the progress of this, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The evidence submitted to the Green Paper clearly identified a need for better data on rents and affordability, and this is being considered as part of a White Paper planned for publication later this year.

“In Wales, we have put measures in place that limit rent increases to once in a 12-month period, provided two months’ notice has been given and the landlord is in compliance with all requirements under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act."

There are a number of ways that rent controls can be put in place when it comes to implementing rent controls. In Paris, rent controls are in place and rents are set on a per square metre basis and other factors considered such as age of the property impacting on the maximum rent chargeable. And closer to home in Scotland, things have also been shifting, as The Housing (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament recently to set out how close working with councils can help make sure rent controls are tailored to the needs of tenants and landlords in different parts of the country.

Tenants’ Rights Minister Patrick Harvie said: “Scotland has led the way within the UK in supporting and strengthening the rights of people who rent their homes. The Housing Bill sets out our next steps on the path towards a fairer, well-regulated private rented sector, which is good for both tenants and landlords and encourages investment."