Social housing speed read: New housing legislation introduced in Wales – a guide for social housing landlords
13th December, 2022
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 was finally brought into force on 1 December 2022, which is the new statutory framework governing how properties are let in Wales.
The Act is a major shakeup for landlords.
We have previously published comment on the then pending changes, but it is helpful to revisit the effect of the legislation on Welsh landlords now it has been brought into force.
Welsh Registered Social Landlords are now “Community Landlords” and tenancy is known as an ‘Occupation Contract’ and the tenant a ‘Contract Holder’.
The occupation contract replaces assured tenancies, assured shorthold tenancies and some licenses. Existing tenancies have automatically transferred into occupation contracts and are governed by the new legislation.
There are two types of occupational contracts.
Community landlords will primarily grant ‘Secure Contracts’ which replace the assured tenancies, though there are occasions where they will grant ‘Standard Contracts’ replacing assured shortholds. This shall be the situation for introductory tenancies and perhaps supported tenancies where there is an element of support provided.
The terms of the occupational contract are decided between both parties and statute. It is a statutory requirement to incorporate ‘key matters’, ‘fundamental terms’ and ‘supplementary terms’ with the option for ‘additional terms’. Landlords must then provide a written contract to contract holders within a particular time period and failure to provide the contract can result in landlords paying compensation to the contract-holders.
The legislation also provides specifics around the obtaining of landlords consent (including strict timeframes and meeting a test of reasonableness) with failures to adhere to deadlines resulting in implied consent. A contract holder also has the right to challenge the reasonableness of refusal of consent via an application to court and a judgement ordering consent or reconsideration.
The Act extends succession with both ‘priority’ and ‘reserve successors’. If upon the death of the contract-holder there is a qualified successor, they will succeed the contract. If there are two priority successors the landlord shall choose the successor or, in the event that there are no priority successors and two reserve successors, the landlord shall choose which reserve successor succeeds. There may be a following succession from a priority succession though no further for a reserve succession.
Landlord’s repairing obligations are also extended under the Act. As well as specific requirements mirroring the existing Housing Act 1985 section 11 obligations, landlords must also meet the Renting Homes Wales (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022 and the 29 matters and circumstances therein. It remains that there are limitations on the duty to repair such as notice and access, and now being able to repair at a reasonable expense and making good damage after inevitable accident.
Breach of Tenancy
In the event that a contract-holder believes that their landlord has breached their occupation contract, there is a statutory right to withhold rent. Whilst we believe this is to be applied largely to matters of disrepair, there is scope for this to be applied more generally to the right to quiet enjoyment. In these situations, the community landlord is able to apply to the court and ask for a declaration stating whether the money is being lawfully withheld by the contract holder.
Security of Tenure
Community landlords can only obtain possession by way of a possession order after serving the occupation-holder notice by way of a RHW23 which replaces a notice of seeking possession. Similarly, where terminating a secure contract the notice must specify what ground the landlord intends to rely on. These are known as Section 205 grounds.
As before with discretionary ground for possession the landlord is required to prove reasonableness to the court and helpfully, a list of considerations and circumstances which the court will take into account can be found within Schedule 10 of the Act.
Issuing Possession Proceedings
Amendments have been published to the Civil Procedure Rules for cases under the Act, but as of yet there has been no publication or announcement of the new court forms. We expect a whole suite of new court forms to be issued imminently and PCOL claims have been suspended pending an HMCTS IT update.
Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014
The new Act does not interfere with the ASBCPA and the availability of ASB injunctions remains in place.
How should landlords respond?
Landlords should now have compliant occupation contracts and policies in place. Where a tenancy agreement has been automatically transferred into an occupation contract landlords have up to 6 months to give the contract holder a written statement. Where a contract-holder moves into their home on or after 1 December, and so has a brand-new occupation contract, the landlord has to provide them the written statement within 14 days of the date they move in.
Melanie Dirom, Director, has been practicing Housing law in Wales for over 10 years and is assisting the firm’s Welsh housing clients (public and private) to navigate the new landscape. Please do feel free to contact Melanie to discuss any requirements or queries that you have in relation to the new legislation.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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