Renting Homes (Wales) Act Update

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 has been nearly 6 years in the making and it was recently announced by the Welsh Government that it will come into force in Wales on the 15th of July 2022. This new legislation will create a new set of laws which are unique to Wales for all private rented tenancies. In this article we will look at some of the more important parts of the new legislation.

Contracts

Perhaps more a nuance, but there will no longer be tenancy agreements or tenants. The agreement will be called an occupation contract and the tenant will be a contract holder under the new legislation.

There will be 2 types of contract and for the private sector the new Standard Contract will be the one to use. The new contracts must contain specific terms within them, which are laid down in the Renting Homes (Model Written Statements of Contract (Wales) Regulations 2022.

The new contracts will contain the following general terms:

  • Key matters: The names of the parties and address of the property. These must be inserted in every contract.
  • Fundamental Terms: Cover the most important aspects of the contract, including the possession procedures and the landlord’s obligations regarding repair.
  • Supplementary Terms: These deal with the more practical, day to day matters applying to the occupation contract.
  • Additional Terms: These are any other agreement which is not required by law but which is negotiated and agreed between the parties, such as keeping pets. Any additional terms must be fair, as required by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

This occupation contract must be given to the Contract Holder within 14 days of the contract starting for contracts starting after the 15th of July 2022. For existing tenancy agreements these will automatically transition to the new occupation contracts on the 15th July 2022 and written notice must be given no later than January 16th 2023. The Welsh Government has given some guidance on how to convert current agreements to Occupation Contracts.

Prescribed Forms

Under the new legislation there will be prescribed forms for certain notices and documents associated with the Occupation Contract. This is covered in the Renting Homes (Prescribed Forms) (Wales) Regulations 2022 and the new prescribed forms cover everything from providing names and addresses to changing rent, serving notices, collection and return of deposits and adding new Contract Holders. These forms will have to be used for any of these documents or notifications.

Deposits

Covered under the Renting Homes (Deposit Schemes)(Required Information)(Wales) Regulations 2022, landlords will have to provide information on how the deposit will be protected and supply this information to the contract holder within 30 days of the contract start.

Safety Requirements

The new legislation, under the Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation (Wales) Regulations 2022 will require landlords to undertake certain safety responsibilities and a property will only be compliant if:

  • They have had a satisfactory electrical installation condition report (EICR) performed, with a copy given to the Contract Holder within 7 days of occupation or the inspection taking place.
  • Mains-wired interlinked smoke alarms are fitted on every floor of the property
  • Carbon Monoxide alarms are fitted in every room with a gas, oil or solid fuel burning appliance

Ending Contracts

Contracts can be ended but, where a Contract Holder has breached any terms of the contract the minimum notice varies dependent on the offence. No fault notices can only be served with a notice period of 6 months and these cannot be served unless the landlord has registered with and been licenced by Rent Smart Wales and complied with the deposit protection rules. Additionally, no fault notices cannot be issues until 6 months after the contract has started. Standard break clauses can only be included on fixed term Occupation Contracts of more than 2 years and a break clause cannot be used within the first 18 months by the landlord.

It is important to note here that, irrespective of this, landlords will not be able to serve notice if they have not already supplied the Contract Holder with the following information and documents:

  • An energy performance certificate
  • A gas safety certificate
  • A satisfactory electrical installation condition report

Abandoned Properties

Covered under the Renting Homes (Safeguarding property in Abandoned Properties) (Wales) Regulations 2022, a landlord can take possession of a property without a court order if they believe that the property has been abandoned. To do this though they have to have:

  • Serve a prescribed abandonment notice on the property, giving four week notice to the Contract Holder using the correct prescribed form
  • During the 4 weeks, try to establish the property is abandoned by contacting any of the Contract Holders’ family, guarantors, support workers, etc, that are known to the landlord.

After this 4 week period, if the landlord is totally satisfied that the property has been abandoned, then they can take possession after a further notice is served. They will, however, have to safeguard any possessions left in the property for a further 4 weeks unless

  • The goods are perishable and storage would be unnecessarily inconvenient to the landlord; or
  • The goods are less valuable than the cost of reasonable storage over that time period.

The new rules are far reaching and will lead to changes in almost every aspect of the private rented sector. The new Regulations can be found on the Welsh Government’s website.

It is advisable that any Welsh Landlord fully understand the new Act and the associated Regulations to ensure that remain compliant with the law. If there is any uncertainty then it is advisable to seek professional legal advice or letting agent.