‘Renting Homes Wales Day’ – The countdown
If, you’re like me, the 1st December reminds me of the childhood excitement of opening door 1 of an Advent calendar, (these days rewarded with a chocolate to enjoy rather than a retro picture of a robin). This year the 1st December also marks the start of something really important in housing in Wales: something new for everyone living in, owning, or managing rented homes in Wales.
Across Wales, social landlords, (Housing Associations and Councils), as well as private landlords are busy gearing up to 1st December when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act becomes law. A new law which has been designed to give more protections for tenants and licensees and makes clearer their rights and responsibilities.
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 represents the biggest change to housing law in Wales for decades, and as you can see from the ‘2016’ reference , it has taken much longer than expected for the Welsh Government to implement the 2016 Act, as it has required some additional legislation, some of which have required separate consultation.
So now it’s nearly here, and landlords are busy behind the scenes getting everything in place for what may become known as ‘Renting Homes Wales Day’ - I wonder? Needless to say, work undertaken by landlords has been extensive: everything from training staff, taking legal advice, developing new policies, to communicating with their tenants what the Act will mean to them. So, what are the new changes?
There are a number of important changes to know about and there is plenty of information available on the Welsh Government’s website in different formats and languages here www.gov.wales/rentinghomes. Landlords across Wales are also producing useful information about the changes, and it’s been great to see how they have been using new ways to share what’s happening, including some fantastic TikToks as a way to inform younger people. So, there’s lots of information out there, but I’d suggest that these are the essentials you need to know about:
New, simpler contracts will be issued - Tenants and licensees will legally be called “contract holders” under the new law and will be issued with an ‘occupation contract’ to replace the existing tenancy or licence agreement. Existing tenants will receive their new contract within 6 months of the new Act starting on 1st December 2022
Your home must be fit to live in - Your landlord must fit a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm, and carry out regular electrical safety testing
More notice of a rent increase - The notice period for a rent increase will double from one month to two months.
Contract-holders can be added or removed more easily - Contract-holders can be added or removed from the contract more easily. This means, if another joint contract-holder leaves the contract, you won’t be at risk of homelessness.
Greater rights to pass your home if you die - These ‘succession rights’ include your partner or adult children, if they live with you.
Whilst the changes in the Act are positive, with more protections for tenants, there has been concern by some tenants of social landlords around the practical implementation of the Act and the associated financial cost incurred by landlords.
Some tenants have expressed concern at the length and complexity of new ‘occupation contracts’ which will replace their existing tenancy agreement. With some contracts in excess of 80 pages!, add to that the complex legal jargon, it is expected that the majority of tenants are unlikely to be fully aware of the details and terms contained in them. Alongside this, some tenants have questioned what staff support will be available to provide detailed 1:1 advice to tenants as they receive their new contract.
A related concern identified by tenants is the cost incurred by landlords in implementing the Act, a cost which will inevitably be funded through tenants’ rents. Expensive legal fees, staff costs, printing etc will result in landlords spending in the tens of thousands of pounds in implementing the Act, costs which some tenants believe would be better spent on essential services such as repairs and money advice, particularly during the cost of living crisis.
Whatever your view of the Renting Homes Wales Act, it’s nearly here. So as you open up door 1 of your Advent calendar this year don’t forget it will also be ‘Renting Homes Wales Day’ day, when the way you rent will change and for the better.