Brief insight: Landlord obligations following the implementation of Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016
On 01 December 2022, the long-awaited Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 came into effect across Wales. The legislation was the biggest shake-up in housing law in Wales since the Housing Act 1988.
If you are a private landlord of Welsh residential property then there are a number of significant changes to your obligations which you need to be aware of:-
Conversion of “tenancy agreements” to “occupation contracts”
From 01 December 2022, existing private rented sector tenancies were converted into ‘standard occupation contracts’ where the tenant became a ‘contract-holder’.
Issuing an occupation contract
For new occupation contracts entered into from 01 December 2022, a landlord has 14 days from when the contract begins to provide the contract-holder/s with the written statement of terms (occupation contract).
For existing tenancies that began before 01 December 2022, landlords are obliged to serve written terms upon their contract-holders by 30 May 2023.
Penalties for not doing so are that:-
- Landlords cannot properly serve a notice of termination
- Contract-holders can reclaim monies equivalent to rent, or withhold rent until the written terms are provided.
Landlords can owe the contract-holders compensation for every day that the occupation contract was not served. Compensation is equivalent to the daily rate of rent plus interest, capped at 2 months’ rent.
The Welsh Government has produced template occupation contracts which can be found at https://www.gov.wales/renting-homes-model-written-statements.
The Act places an obligation on a landlord to ensure that, at the start of and during the length of the occupation contract, the property is fit for human habitation. This obligation extends to the structure and exterior of the dwelling, including drains, gutters and external pipes. It also includes the service installations in the dwelling, such as those for the supply of water, gas or electricity, for sanitation, and for space heating or for heating water.
A landlord must keep the property in repair at all times. The contract-holder must report disrepair to their landlord who should carry out the repairs within a reasonable time and to a reasonable standard.
If a landlord issues a ‘no-fault’ possession notice in response to a repair request, the Court can refuse to make a possession order and a landlord will be unable to issue a further no-fault notice until 6 months later.
A contract-holder can bring a claim against a landlord for specific performance for the required repairs and/or compensation in the event the property is unfit for human habitation.
Health and Safety Requirements
Landlords are to meet specific requirements in terms of health and safety in the property and failure to comply deems the property unfit for human habitation.
The Act imposes 3 requirements on a landlord:-
- Ensuring the presence of smoke alarms in proper working order.
This requires a smoke alarm, in proper working order, to be present on every storey of a dwelling. Landlords must ensure each of these smoke alarms is in proper working order, connected to the electrical supply and inter-linked with all other smoke alarms.
- Ensuring the presence of carbon monoxide detectors in proper working order.
This requires a landlord to ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is present in any room which has a gas, oil or solid fuel burning appliance installed.
- Ensuring the inspection and testing of the electrical installation.
A landlord is required to have the electrical installation of the dwelling tested every five years unless the requirements of the previous EICR indicate a shorter testing interval is required.
In addition, a landlord is also required to provide the contract-holder with written confirmation of all investigatory and remedial work carried out on the electrical installation.
For converted occupation contracts, a landlord has until 30 November 2023 to comply with the new fitness for human habitation requirements.
Terminating an occupation contract
A landlord will be unable to give proper notice to terminate an occupation contract if they have not complied with certain obligations, including providing the written terms, protecting the deposit, completing necessary repairs in a reasonable time and meeting the health and safety requirements detailed above.
A landlord is unable to serve a ’no-fault’ notice to end the contract, unless the contract has become periodic. In the case of Assured Shorthold Tenancies which converted to occupation contracts on 1 December 2022, the no-fault notice period of 2 months will continue to apply until 1 June 2023, when it will then increase to 6 months. A 6-month no-fault notice period applies to all periodic standard occupation contracts which began on or after 1 December 2022.
For landlords of student accommodation, the ‘non-fault’ notice period is shortened to 2 months’ notice.
If a contract-holder fails to pay rent, a landlord can serve a possession notice on the basis that they have breached their contract. This has a 1 month notice period. If they are in serious rent arrears, for example of 2 months or more on a monthly rental period, a landlord may serve a notice on that ground, which has a shorter notice period of 14 days.
For most other breaches of the occupation contract, 1 month’s notice is required, however when anti-social behaviour is involved no notice is required and a landlord can apply to the court for possession immediately after serving notice.
If you are a landlord and would like to discuss and/or receive any advice in respect of possession of your property or recovery of rent arrears, please call us on 0333 200 5200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our friendly and experienced team are will be happy to assist you.