Tenants: housing law is changing (Renting Homes) In Wales

What Renting Homes means for tenants and licensees.

Renting Homes is the biggest change to housing law in Wales for decades. It gives more protections for tenants and licensees, and makes clearer their rights and responsibilities. Because Renting Homes applies to both tenants and licensees, they are called ‘contract-holders’ under the new law. Your landlord will issue you with an ‘occupation contract’, which will replace your tenancy or licence agreement.

There are two types of occupation contract:

  • Secure contract: This replaces secure tenancies issued by local authorities and assured tenancies issued by housing associations that are Registered Social Landlords (RSLs); and
  • Standard contract: This is the contract that will mainly be used in the private rented sector (where you have a landlord who is not a council/local authority or a RSL), but can be used by local authorities and RSLs in some circumstances (e.g. a ‘supported standard contract’ for supported accommodation).

Your occupation contract with your landlord will have to be set out in a ‘written statement’. The purpose of the written statement is to confirm the terms of the contract. This written statement must contain all the ‘required contractual terms’. These are:

  • Key matters: For example, the names of the landlord and contract-holder and address of the property. These must be inserted in every contract.
  • Fundamental Terms: Covers the most important aspects of the contract, including how the landlord gets possession and the landlord’s obligations regarding repairs.
  • Supplementary Terms: Deals with the more practical, day to day matters applying to the occupation contract. For example, the requirement to notify the landlord if the property is going to be left unoccupied for four weeks or more.
  • Additional Terms: Addresses any other specifically agreed matters, for example a term which relates to the keeping of pets.

Contracts can be given in hardcopy or, if the contract-holder agrees, electronically. Signing the contract is good practice, as it confirms you are happy with everything it says.

Examples of model written statements that can be used for an occupation contract can be found in the guidance and services section.

Renting Homes also includes other important changes to housing law. These include:

  • Fitness for Human Habitation: Landlords must ensure properties are fit for human habitation (FFHH). This will include, for instance, electrical safety testing and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted. In addition, rent will not be payable for any period during which the property is not fit for human habitation. However, you should first raise any concerns with your landlord and continue to pay rent. If there is a dispute, it would ultimately be for the Court to decide if your landlord has complied with the fitness obligation, and you may be required to pay back any rent owed. See Fitness of homes for human habitation: guidance for landlords.
  • There is greater security for people who live in the private rented sector (“PRS”) under the new law:
    • Your landlord must give you at least six months’ notice (a ‘section 173’ notice in the Act) to end the contract, providing you do not break a term of the contract, often called a ‘no fault’ notice (increased from two months’ notice); 
    • No fault notices cannot be issued until six months after you move in (the ‘occupation date’ of the contract).
    • If your landlord has not acted on the ‘no fault notice’ (so they haven’t used it to try to get possession of the property), they can’t issue another one for six months.
    • If you have a fixed term contract (which says how long the contract is for) your landlord cannot normally issue a notice to end your contract. If you don’t leave, the fixed term contract will usually become what is called a ‘periodic standard contract’ at the end of the fixed term, and your landlord will have to serve a six-month no fault notice to bring this to an end.
    • Landlords cannot include a break clause (to regain possession) in fixed term standard contracts of less than two years. If the fixed term is two years or more, your landlord cannot give you notice until at least month 18 of the fixed term contract, and will have to give you at least six months’ notice.
  • Protection against ‘retaliatory eviction’: Your landlord cannot issue you with a no fault notice just because you have complained your home is in a poor state of repair. The Court would need to be satisfied your landlord hasn’t issued the notice to avoid carrying out the repair.
  • Joint Contracts: 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 people experiencing domestic abuse by enabling the abuser to be targeted for eviction.
  • Enhanced Succession Rights: Enables both a ‘priority’ and ‘reserve’ person (‘successor’) to succeed to the occupation contract. This allows two successions to the contract to take place, for example a husband or wife followed by another family member. In addition, a new succession right for carers is created.
  • Abandonment Procedure: Landlords can repossess an abandoned property without needing a court order, after serving a four-week warning notice and carrying out investigations to be sure the property is abandoned.
  • Supported Accommodation: If you live in supported accommodation for more than six months, you become entitled to a ‘supported standard contract’. The supported standard contract will operate in a similar way to the standard contract. However, your landlord may include terms in the contract relating to:
    • the ability to change where the contract-holder is living within the building; and
    • the ability for the landlord to temporarily exclude the contract-holder from the dwelling for up to 48 hours, a maximum of three times in six months.

If you rent your property from a community landlord (for example, a local authority or RSL) then your rent will still only increase in line with the Social Rent Policy, as set by the Welsh Government.

You may also find it useful to read ‘What Renting Homes Means for Landlords’ guidance.

Posted on February 1, 2022

  
Ombudsman
Onthemarket