The Welsh Government are ‘temporarily’ increasing the notice period to end a tenancy from 3 months to 6 months – effective today.
The power to implement this, and to ignore the 21-days notice we are ordinarily given of changes like this, was granted to the Welsh Government by the Coronavirus Act 2020.
The news has left landlords feeling shocked and powerless. It is shocking that laws can be created without following usual processes, and put into effect literally overnight.
What does this mean for landlords?
If you have served a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice to your tenants prior to today, the notice period will remain at the already-extended time of 3 months.
If you need to serve either from today onwards, the notice period will be 6 months. You will then not be able to apply to court until January 2021 at the earliest if your tenant doesn’t leave.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA said: “The news that the notice period will be increased from three to six months will come as a real hammer blow to landlords in Wales.
“Some may already have tenants who were building up arrears prior to covid, now not only have they been hit by the five-month moratorium on repossessions but they will have to give a further six-months’ notice.
“Even after this, it is unlikely the courts will be able to hear these cases straight away, so landlords could quite easily be looking at 18 months with no income.
“Effectively depriving a landlord of their right to evict as we come out of lockdown is unacceptable.
“The Welsh Government must act swiftly to address this, by offering interest free loans to tenants to cover unpaid rent and remove any risk of eviction.
“Where tenants refuse to apply for loans but continue to build arrears, landlords will need greater assistance.”
The Welsh Government said the changes – which will exclude cases of anti-social behaviour – are ‘temporary’ to give tenants greater increased security and give them more time to resolve any problems.
“increased time (for tenants) to seek support”
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Welsh Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James MS wrote: “The effect will be to further delay evictions during the ongoing public health emergency; fewer people will face eviction into homelessness at a time when local authorities are less able to respond to these situations; those renting their homes will benefit from increased security and reduced anxiety; and individuals at risk of eviction will be provided with increased time to seek support to resolve any problems.”
What this seems to suggest is that Welsh landlords within the Private Rented Sector are expected to pick up the slack from local councils who don’t have/haven’t been given the resources to effectively help their constituents during the pandemic.
Landlords have been told to negotiate on rent repayment plans before evicting tenants, but there’s been little guidance on how to do this. This new extension of the eviction ban could also have serious consequences for tenants getting into unmanageable debt.
It also totally ignores that rent arrears are not the only reason a landlord might need to regain possession of their property.
What can we do?
Talking to local landlords, and being a landlord myself, I’m really not surprised that we’re all feeling helpless.
The emphasis now has to be on continuing to manage our tenancies effectively, and keeping communication lines with our tenants open.
If your tenants do fall into arrears, you need to be able to have frank, empathetic conversations about finances if you’re going to be able to negotiate a robust repayment plan. If communications do then break down, you are likely to need evidence of any attempted agreements if the case goes to court.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the changing legislation, you’re not alone. Come and join in on the conversation online with other local landlords in the Swansea Landlord Circle on Facebook, and/or connect with me on LinkedIn.