1 December 2022 sees the biggest change in decades to the renting of homes in Wales. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will finally come into force on this date, replacing the
current separate pieces of legislation with a single legal framework. The Act aims to simplify
the renting process, clarify rights and responsibilities and increase protection for tenants.
So, what’s staying the same and what’s changing?
All landlords will continue to be legally required to register with Rent Smart Wales.
As is the case now, if a landlord does not personally manage a rental property, they
must appoint a licenced agent to act on their behalf. If they undertake the letting
and management of the property themselves, they must also apply for a Rent Smart
Agent Licence and complete the required training. The training can be completed
face to face or online. Details of fees and training can be found on the Rent Smart
Private tenancy agreements will be replaced by occupation contracts and tenants
will be known as contract-holders. Although existing agreements will be
automatically converted to the new contracts on December 1, there is a six-month
window for landlords to issue new written Occupation Contracts.
The new contracts will operate in the same way as a tenancy agreement but must
contain new specifically worded clauses covering the rights and responsibilities of
both landlords and contract-holders.
Tenants will be guaranteed an initial 12 months of tenure. A landlord will no longer
be able to issue a no-fault notice within the first six months of a tenancy and the
notice period thereafter will increase from two to six months. This means that
tenants will have a full 12 months of contract security.
Furthermore, after December break clauses will only be permitted in contracts of
two years or more and they will not be able to be acted on within the first 18
If a tenant breaks the terms of the contract, the minimum at-fault notice period will
increase from two weeks to one month. For anti-social behaviour, domestic violence
or serious rent arrears, shorter notice periods will still be possible.
It will be easier to repossess abandoned properties. A landlord will no longer have
to gain a court order to take back possession of a property that is no longer being
occupied. Instead, they can issue a four-week notice that the contract will end due
Succession rights will be improved, allowing tenants to nominate a “priority” and a
“reserve” successor to take on the property after their death. In both cases, the
nominated person must be someone who lived at the property during the previous
12 months or was the tenant’s carer.
There will be revised minimum housing standards. The new Act lists 29 points
which will determine whether a property is deemed safe and fit for human
habitation. These cover the structure and exterior of the property and the maintenance of
water, gas and electricity installations. In addition, there is a requirement to have
mains-wired smoke alarms on all floors, carbon monoxide detectors in all rooms
with fuel-burning heaters and to hold a valid electrical inspection certificate which
must be renewed every five years.
If the property fails to meet these standards, rent is not payable until the problems
have been remedied. A landlord cannot serve notice if a tenant complains or asks for
repairs, thus outlawing so-called “retaliatory eviction”.
The changes introduced by the Act are significant and increase the differences
between English and Welsh legislation. Tenants and landlords should ensure they
understand how the changes affect their rights and responsibilities.