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The biggest change to Welsh housing law ‘in decades’ comes into force on 1 December 2022.
Read on to find out what the Renting Homes Act means for landlords in Wales and whether similar measures could be rolled out across the rest of the UK.
The new laws are designed to improve how people ‘rent, manage, and live’ in Welsh rented homes.
The main changes are based around tenancy contracts, the condition of rental properties, and how landlords and tenants communicate.
The Welsh government says that the Renting Homes Act will make the system simpler for landlords.
The new laws will apply to new tenancies from 1 December 2022 and existing tenancies from 1 June 2023.
The Renting Homes Act was originally scheduled to come into effect from June 2022, but it was postponed by six months due to requests from landlords.
Despite being passed six years ago, the introduction of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 has been delayed on several occasions.
The new rules aim to make things simpler for landlords and give tenants more protection.
There are three main areas landlords need to know about.
Tenancy agreements are being replaced with an ‘occupation contract’.
An occupation contract will need to include many of the features of a standard tenancy agreement, including:
From 1 December 2022, landlords will need to give new tenants a paper or electronic version of the occupation contract within 14 days.
For existing tenancies, landlords will have six months to issue tenants with their new occupation contract.
Landlords who want to regain possession of their property for no specific reason will need to give tenants six months’ notice.
If a tenant breaches their occupation contract, the landlord will need to give one month’s notice. For serious issues such as anti-social behaviour and rent arrears, the minimum notice period could be shorter.
Under the new rules, landlords will need to make sure their property is ‘fit for human habitation’.
You can read the full landlord guidance on the Welsh government website.<br />
Tenants will be known as ‘contract-holders’.
Alongside the changes to rules around property condition, notice periods, and contracts outlined above, tenants will also benefit from improved ‘succession’ rights.
This means there will be more clarity around who has a right to continue living in a rental property if, for example, the current tenant dies.
It will also be easier for joint tenants to leave a property without the need to end the current contract and start a new one.
The Renting Homes Act hit the headlines when the results of a consultation showed that the Welsh government ignored the opinions of landlords.
In September, it launched a consultation asking whether the ’no fault’ notice period for existing tenancies should be extended to six months.
The vast majority of responses, over 90 per cent of which came from landlords and letting agents, were against extending notice periods for existing tenancies to six months.
Despite the results, the Welsh government confirmed that it would be going ahead with the introduction of six-month notice periods for existing tenancies from June 2023.
Government minister Julie James said that the ‘societal and individual benefits’ of longer notice periods ‘outweigh the negative impact on individual landlords’.
The decision to ignore the results of the consultation attracted a negative response from the lettings industry.
Tim Thomas, policy and campaigns officer for Propertymark, said: “Letting agents and their landlords showed great flexibility [during] the pandemic in their support of extended notice periods, but again we have a government pursuing permanent changes [that] were supposed to be temporary measures.
“The Welsh government says extending notice periods is necessary to bring down the rising cost to taxpayers of temporary accommodation. What it fails to understand is the knock-on effect this strengthening of tenants’ rights will have on the confidence of landlords.
“Landlords have become important housing providers, but they need to know they can regain possession of their property when they need to. The best way to support tenants is to focus on policies that can increase the supply of housing rather than those that will constrain it.”
Longer notice periods were frequent across the whole of the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are no plans to replace tenancy agreements in England. However, incoming rental reforms plan to outlaw ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions.
In Scotland, assured shorthand tenancies were replaced with the Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) in 2017. The PRT is similar to the laws being introduced under the Renting Homes Act in that it aims to give tenants more security.
In September 2022, the Scottish government introduced a range of measures in response to the cost of living crisis, including a ban on evictions.
How do you feel about the Renting Homes Act? Let us know in the comments below.
Conor Shilling is a Copywriter at Simply Business with over two years’ experience in the insurance industry. A trained journalist, Conor has worked as a professional writer for 10 years. His previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor specialises in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.
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