A new regime for renting in Wales is now in place, following a long implementation journey for the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. The new law was granted Royal Assent in January 2016, but has taken 7 years to come fully into force.
Almost all aspects of what it is to be a tenant or landlord in Wales has been overhauled by this new Act. Here’s some key highlights:
Existing assured, secure and other tenancy agreements will ‘convert’ to occupation contracts, which now provide all the details of rights and responsibilities for all parties to the contract, which can save time and hassle having to navigate numerous housing regulations and case law. It will all be there in the contract instead. The term ‘Community Landlord’ comes in too – with both housing associations and local councils being called this.
Got a new partner moving in? Need to get a partner off the contract? Under the new Act things are being made a bit easier as well as providing certain safeguards. For instance, one contract holder will no longer be able to end the contract for everyone else without their prior explicit consent. This will likely be a relief for abuse victims worried about their abuser ending a contract on them. Likewise, if someone wants to leave a contract they will be able to do so without prejudicing anyone else.
The grounds for possession will change to new grounds around breach of contract or estate management, but there will still be grounds for serious rent arrears. Section 21 evictions are replaced by a new Section 173 regime in Wales – but this can only be used if the new occupation contract allows it – remember, everything has to be in the contract now.
Spouses and civil partners will have the ability to take up the occupation contract, with other ‘close family members’ second. The new Act enhances many provisions around this, and again the starting point is to ensure that any rights are properly enshrined in the occupation contract.
Fit for Human Habitation
It will be possible for rent to be withheld if repairs and maintenance works are not carried out – but this must be allowed for in the contract. We keep saying it, but it’s important: everything must be in the contract now.
A court can also determine if a ‘revenge eviction’ is being carried out without the need for action by local environmental health departments first.
What’s the takeaway?
The question many in Wales will have to ask as a first principle is: “what does the occupation contract say about it?”, which may often help to bring a lot of clarity before the need to get professionals involved.
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