17 Jun 2022

Public Law and Private Client

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act – Will further delays mean more changes?

It was announced last month that the biggest change to housing law in Wales for decades – the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 - that was due to be implemented on 15th July this year has now been pushed back until 1st December. Stephen Davies, paralegal in our Public Law & Private Client Department, discusses what these changes will mean for landlords and tenants across Wales.

What is the Renting Homes (Wales) Act?

Landlords with rental properties in Wales are set to face some of the biggest changes to their rights and obligations in decades, with the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (‘the Act’) bringing in extensive changes to housing law in Wales. First passed in 2016¸ the Act was supposed to finally come into force on 15th July 2022 but has been pushed back again.

Its focus will be to simplify the renting process for both landlords and tenants, clarify the rights and responsibilities of Welsh landlords and provide greater legislative protection for renters in Wales.

At the request of social and private landlords, the implementation date of the Act has been deferred by the Welsh Government until 1st December 2022. This additional delay was agreed in order to provide landlords with sufficient time to make the necessary preparations to comply with the Act’s requirements. The Welsh Government has confirmed that a further tranche of subordinate legislation, which will supplement the main provisions of the Act, is due to be made in July 2022.

Despite the changes that will likely take place before the commencement date, it is worth discussing the biggest changes to the law.  Some of the most significant changes includes the introduction of “standard occupation contracts”, extended notice periods and enhanced safety requirements.

Standard occupation contracts

From 1st December 2022, there will no longer be tenancies or tenancy agreements in Wales. Existing tenancies will be converted into new standard “occupation contracts” and a tenant will become a ‘contract holder’.

The difference is more than just terminology, as there will be specific terms that will automatically be deemed as being incorporated into the occupation contract. Landlords will have to consider the existing terms of their current AST and its compatibility with the new “fundamental” provisions.

Landlords will also need to provide a copy of the new occupation contract in writing to their contract holder. For new contracts, this must be no later than 15 days after the contract starts. For existing tenancies transitioning over to the new system, landlords have a maximum of six months from 1st December 2022 to issue a written statement of the converted occupation contract to their contract-holders.

Ending standard contracts

Currently, where a tenancy is ended, then it ends the agreement for all parties. As a result of this, if you have a joint contract for a HMO (houses in multiple occupations) or a family breaks up, then all tenants have to leave. However, under the new system, if one tenant chooses to leave, then only they are removed from the contract, and the other tenants can remain on it on the same terms. Similarly, tenants can also be added to the agreement mid-contract without the need for a deed of assignment.

Where the landlord wants to end the contract, both Section 21 and Section 8 notices will no longer be available. Instead, they will be replaced by new notices with different rules about when they can be served. For example, the replacement for Section 21 will require a minimum of six months’ notice and cannot be served in the first six months of the occupation contract. If there is evidence that a contract-holder (tenant) has breached the occupation contract (tenancy agreement), the minimum notice period remains one month, or even less in cases that relate to anti-social behaviour or serious rent arrears.

New safety requirements

As well as this, the legislation introduces a number of new safety responsibilities for landlords in Wales under the banner of new fitness for human habitation requirements.

Once the legislation comes into force, the property will be unfit for human habitation unless the landlord ensures that:

  • They have had a satisfactory electrical installation condition report (EICR) performed, with a copy given to the contract holders within 7 days of occupation or the inspection taking place. Landlords must ensure EICR’s are conducted every five years or less if specified.
  • Mains-wired interlinked smoke alarms are fitted on every floor of the property
  • CO alarms are fitted in every room with a gas, oil or solid fuel burning appliance
  • Keeping the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes) in repair.
  • The service installations in the dwelling, such as the supply of water, gas or electricity, sanitation, and space heating or for heating water, are in repair.

Landlords must keep the dwelling in repair at all times. It is permissible for the property to be in disrepair in cases where the landlord is not informed or does not have knowledge of the need for repair. However, once the landlord has been informed, all repairs ‘must be carried out in a reasonable time and to a reasonable standard’.

It is important for landlords to ensure that they bring their properties and tenancies in line with the new legislation before 1st December 2022, to ensure a smooth transition.

Get in touch

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act signals vast changes for renters and landlords in Wales. If you have any questions about the Renting Homes (Wales) Act, or if you would like more information, please contact us by either calling 01633 244233 or by sending an email to courtc@hevans.com

 

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