New tenancy regulations in Wales to become effective from July

Julie James the Welsh Minister for Climate Change has announced that a raft of changes to housing and tenancy law in the country will come into effect from 15 July 2022.

Under the new law (The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016), tenants and licencees will become ‘contract-holders’ and tenancy agreements will be replaced with ‘occupation contracts’. The new law is intended to make renting easier and to provide greater security to residents.

For tenants (or contract-holders, using the new terminology) it will mean:

  • receiving a written contract setting out their rights and responsibilities;
  • an increase in the ‘no fault’ notice period from two to six months;
  • greater protection from eviction;
  • improved succession rights, these set out who has a right to continue to live in a dwelling, for example after the current tenant dies; and
  • more flexible arrangements for joint contract-holders, making it easier to add or remove others to an occupation contract.

For landlords it will mean:

  • A simpler system, with two types of contract: ‘Secure’ for the social rented sector and ‘Standard’ for the private rented sector;
  • Councils and housing associations will both be called community landlords. All other landlords will be called private landlords;
  • Ensuring homes are fit for human habitation (FFHH). This will include, electrical safety testing and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted;
  • Rent can only be charged for a property that meets the FFHH requirements; and
  • Abandoned properties can be repossesed without needing a court order.

Electrical inspections of rented properties will be required every five years by a competent person, with condition reports detailing any remedial work necessary being issued after each inspection. Failure to comply with the new requirements will see properties deemed unfit for human habitation and fines of up to £30,000 imposed.

The Welsh Government believes these represent the biggest changes to housing law in Wales for decades giving tenants (contract-holders) a minimum security of tenure of one year from the date of moving in. This means they will have the greatest protection from the start of their contract than in any other part of the UK.

The Act also provides protection against retaliatory eviction. If a landlord responds to a request for repair by issuing a possession notice, they will no longer be automatically entitled to possession if the Court is satisfied the landlord issued the notice to avoid carrying out the repair.

In addition, joint contract-holders can be added or removed from occupation contracts without the need to end one contract and start another. This will make managing joint contracts easier and help those experiencing domestic abuse by enabling the perpetrator to be targeted for eviction.

Responding to the news, Chris Norris, Director of Policy & Campaigns at the National Residential Landlords Association, said:

“There is still a pressing need for more clarity as to what the supporting framework of the Act looks like. The extent of landlords’ future obligations under this legislation also underlines how crucial it is that existing legislation be made fit for purpose before new regulations are introduced.

“While we welcome the introduction of the Act, it is vital that the supporting legislation is fit for purpose and scrutinised sufficiently. In particular, the occupation contract terms, which all landlords must use, needs to improve significantly from its original consultation draft. These important steps must be taken before more complex regulations are introduced by the Welsh Government over the course of this year”

By Patrick Mooney, Editor