A date has been set for the next debate on the bill that will re-write Welsh housing legislation and outlaw the charging of tenant fees in Wales. According to Letting Agent Today, the Senedd are now due to meet on 19th March 2019 to debate the Renting Homes (Fees,etc) (Wales) Bill, now in its third stage.
When brought in, (what will then be called) the Renting Homes (Fees, etc) (Wales) Act will change tenancy agreements and eviction notices in Wales, and could incorporate the tenant fees ban already set to come into effect in England in the Summer.
Though the Government announced that the ban in England will come into effect on 1st June 2019, no date has been proposed for the ban in Wales, leaving estate and letting agents here in the dark.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have reported that previous dates have been set for the debate but then cancelled. It has been further delayed by the replacement of Housing Minister Rebecca Evans with the new minister Julie James.
Wales in Front
In November 2016, it became mandatory for all landlords with property in Wales to be registered and licensed with Rent Smart Wales.
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act will do away with current housing legislation in Wales (outlined in the Housing Act 1988) and simplify tenancy agreements into two types: secured (like assured) and standard (like assured shorthold).
Whilst there has been talk that England will follow Wales with mandatory landlord licensing, it looks like Wales will be venturing into the uncharted territory of these new tenancy types alone for the time being.
Criticism of Rent Smart Wales
Despite criticisms of the scheme (including regarding the efficacy of enforcement), landlord licensing is generally considered to be a success in Wales.
In a recent consultation however, the Welsh Government concluded that roll-out of the Rent Smart Wales information had not been as smooth or as wide-reaching as had been hoped. It now raises questions as to how easily the Welsh Government will be able to roll-out this brand-new housing legislation and how many Welsh landlords could be left in the dark about that, too.
Further Changes in Wales
The Renting Homes Act could also incorporate elements of the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018, which is now coming into effect in England. An update to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Fitness Act increases tenants’ powers to deal with landlords and agents who neglect their responsibilities with regard to maintenance and repairs.
A proactive landlord or letting agent who keeps notes on maintenance issues and can proof steps have been taken to rectify any issues will have nothing to fear from the Fitness Act.
Complaints submitted to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) will be reviewed, and landlords found not to be fulfilling their duty to provide housing fit for human habitation will be given the chance to rectify any outstanding issues before fines are levied.
Uncooperative landlords could face court action.
According to the RLA, the HHSRS will take into account the context of the tenancy when addressing complaints. What is considered fit for habitation for a single adult tenant differs to what might be considered fit for an elderly person, or a family with a newborn baby, for example.
At McCartan, we take a proactive approach to property management and to keeping our landlords informed of changing legislation and how it might affect them. We will keep you updated on the Bill as it progresses.