Frequently asked questions about the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016

8th June 2023 posted in Landlords Tenants

Introduced in December last year, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 has brought about a huge shift in the way landlords in Wales operate. The changes have significantly improved living conditions within rented homes in Wales and streamlined how tenancies are managed.

Called “the most substantial change to housing law in Wales in decades”, since it took effect, we’ve had lots of questions from our Welsh landlords regarding the changes to their properties and paperwork.

To help you to check you’re compliant with the new law, here are our answers to some of your most common questions.

Need some advice tailored to your let? Get in touch with us today.

What are my new responsibilities regarding the upkeep of the property?

It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure that homes are suitable for human habitation, meaning they are safe to live in. This includes:

·       Fitting functional smoke alarms.

·       Fitting carbon monoxide alarms.

·       Conducting electrical safety tests.

Landlords should also maintain the structural integrity and exterior of the property, as well as ensuring that water, gas, electricity, sanitation facilities, space heating, and hot water installations are in proper working order and well-maintained.

What does this mean for landlords? If the property becomes uninhabitable, rent payments will not be required during that period.

If landlords serve a no-fault eviction notice as a response to a repair request (commonly referred to as retaliatory eviction), the court has the authority to reject the possession order and you will not be able to issue another no-fault notice until six months later.

Is funding available to help pay for these updates?

If you’re struggling to afford these updates to your rental property, home improvement loans may be able to help. Reach out to the local authority to find out if you’re eligible.

Has there been any changes to housing contracts?

Yes. Under the new law, tenants and licensees are now referred to as contract-holders. These contract-holders have occupation contracts, which serve as replacements for traditional tenancy and license agreements.

Occupation contracts consist of four types of terms:

Key matters: This includes the names of the parties and the property address, which must be included in every contract.

Fundamental terms: These cover essential aspects such as possession procedures and the landlord's responsibilities for repairs.

Supplementary terms: These address practical day-to-day matters, such as the requirement for contract-holders to notify the landlord if the property will be vacant for four weeks or more.

Additional terms: These cover specifically agreed-upon matters, such as pet ownership. Any additional terms must comply with fairness requirements outlined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Landlords should now provide a written statement of the occupation contract to all contract-holders – replacing the original tenancy or license agreements. The written statement should include all the terms of the contract.

For new rentals, the written statement must be issued within 14 days of occupancy under the contract. For existing tenancy agreements converted to the relevant occupation contract, you have a maximum of six months to provide a written statement to contract-holders. The written statement can be provided in either hardcopy or electronic form, with the agreement of the contract-holder.

Has there been a change to joint tenancies?

The new law allows for changes in joint contract-holders without terminating the entire contract. A contract-holder can add or remove someone from the contract with the landlord's consent, which cannot be unreasonably denied.

What about notice periods?

If a tenant violates the contract, a minimum notice period of one month must be given. However, in cases of anti-social behaviour or serious rent arrears, the notice period can be shorter (more on this later).

For a no-fault notice, the minimum notice period required is 6 months.

There are restrictions on giving such notices:

·       The notice cannot be given until 6 months after the contract begins.

·       Certain obligations must be fulfilled, including registration and licensing with Rent Smart Wales, and compliance with deposit protection rules.

Can I still include break clauses?

Landlord break clauses can only be included in a fixed term occupation contract of 2 years or more. That said, the landlord cannot exercise a break clause within the first 18 months of the tenancy.

Can I increase the rent?

Yes, but a landlord must provide a notice period of at least two months ahead of any changes in rent. This can only be issued once a year.

What should I do if a tenant…

Stops paying rent

If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord has the right to issue a possession notice, citing the breach of their contractual agreement.

This notice typically requires a one-month advance notice period. Alternatively, if the tenant accumulates significant rent arrears (two months or more), the landlord can serve a notice based on that ground, with a notice period of 14 days.

Engages in anti-social or illegal behaviour

Every occupation contract must incorporate the anti-social behaviour provision.

Should the tenant violate this, the landlord has the authority to issue a possession notice immediately and initiate legal proceedings on the same day. It should be noted, the tenant can be held accountable for the conduct of any individual residing in or visiting the property.

Abandons the property

If a property is abandoned, you have the right to repossess it without requiring a court order. This can be done by serving a 4-week warning notice and conducting thorough investigations to confirm that the property is indeed abandoned.

For help navigating updates to do with this or other lettings’ legislation in Wales, contact your local branch.