The Welsh Government, which recently pushed back its so-called rental revolution until December, has nonetheless published extensive new guidelines about the changes.
Radical reforms under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act were to have come into effect in a few weeks time but because of the complexity the Welsh housing minister Julie James says: “I have over recent months received representations from landlords, and particularly social landlords, who have requested that implementation of the Act be delayed.
“As such, and in the light of the unprecedented pressures they face, including Covid recovery and supporting those who are fleeing the war in Ukraine, I have decided to postpone implementation of the Act until 1st December 2022. This will allow more time for landlords to complete the necessary preparations ahead of implementation.”
However, the guidelines published this week give a flavour of the radical changes happening just before Christmas.
There will be two types of tenancy - which will be known as ‘occupation contracts’.
Secure contract replaces secure tenancies issued by local authorities and assured tenancies issued by housing associations that are Registered Social Landlords, while Standard contract will mainly be used in the private rented sector but can be used by local authorities and RSLs in some circumstances.
The contract requires a ‘written statement’ which must contain:
- Key matters: For example, the names of the landlord and contract-holder and address of the property;
- Fundamental Terms: Covers the most important aspects of the contract, including how the landlord gets possession and the landlord’s obligations regarding repairs;
- Supplementary Terms: Deals with the more practical, day to day matters applying to the occupation contract. For example, the requirement to notify the landlord if the property is going to be left unoccupied for four weeks or more;
- Additional Terms: Addresses any other specifically agreed matters, for example a term which relates to the keeping of pets.
The Renting Homes law also includes other important changes which include:
- Fitness for Human Habitation: Landlords must ensure properties are fit for human habitation. This will include, for instance, electrical safety testing and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted. In addition, rent will not be payable for any period during which the property is not fit for human habitation. However, a tenant is told by the guidelines to first raise any concerns with their landlord and continue to pay rent. If there is a dispute, it would ultimately be for the Court to decide if the landlord has complied with the fitness obligation.
- Greater security for people who live in the private rented sector including at least six months’ notice (a ‘section 173’ notice in the Act) to end the contract, providing the tenant does not break a term of the contract;
- Notice cannot be issued until six months after the tenant moves in (the ‘occupation date’ of the contract);
- If there is a fixed term contract (which says how long the contract is for) the landlord cannot normally issue a notice to end the contract. If the tenant does not leave, the fixed term contract will usually become what is called a ‘periodic standard contract’ at the end of the fixed term, and the landlord will have to serve a six-month notice to bring this to an end.
- Landlords cannot include a break clause (to regain possession) in fixed term standard contracts of less than two years. If the fixed term is two years or more, the landlord cannot give the tenant notice until at least month 18 of the fixed term contract, and will have to give at least six months’ notice.
- Protection against alleged ‘retaliatory eviction’: A landlord cannot issue a tenant with a no fault notice just because they have complained that the property is in a poor state of repair. The Court would need to be satisfied the landlord hasn’t issued the notice to avoid carrying out the repair.
- Joint Contracts: Contract-holders (ie, tenants) can be added or removed from contracts without the need to end one contract and start another. This will make managing joint contracts easier and help people experiencing domestic abuse by enabling the abuser to be targeted for eviction.
- Abandonment Procedure: Landlords can repossess an abandoned property without needing a court order, after serving a four-week warning notice and carrying out investigations to be sure the property is abandoned.
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