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“COVID-19 has shown us that people having security in their homes is crucial.” – John Griffiths MS

01/10/2020

  • Senedd Committee backs new Renting Homes Bill 

COVID-19 has shone a light on the importance of a secure home, especially in the private rental sector. The Welsh Government’s Renting Homes (Amendment) Bill seeks to strengthen security for tenants and the Senedd’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has supported the new measures.

Read the Committee's report - Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill - here

The primary changes in the Bill will be to double the length of time from the start of a tenant’s contract before a landlord can regain possession of a property, extending it from 6 to 12 months. These changes provide 12 months security before a tenant would have to leave a property, if no breach of contract had occurred. The Committee heard evidence from the Welsh Local Government Association, that increasing the minimum notice period would make the private rented sector more “attractive” to prospective tenants.

Monitor how the Bill is working for tenants

This Bill seeks to amend the Renting Homes Act 2016, which is bringing in significant changes to renting rules. Although the Committee supports the principles of these changes, strengthening security for tenants, the Committee believes that it is very important to monitor the changes to ensure they are achieving their objectives, including helping tenants.

The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to review how these changes work in practice and monitor lending behaviour, housing supply, landlord’s behaviour and the number of people being found intentionally homeless and outcomes for these people.

Efficiency of the courts

The Committee heard strong evidence that the effectiveness of this Bill and the 2016 Renting Homes Act depends on the courts operating effectively and efficiently.

Housing organisations and landlord representatives have called for improvements to the court systems and processes to make repossessions more efficient, easier to navigate as well as ensuring fairness to both parties.

The Welsh Government emphasised the work it is currently doing with social landlords and local authorities to stop evictions from social housing into homelessness. It considers this a key way of freeing up court time for increased possession claims from private landlords arising from this Bill. The majority of possession claims that currently go to court are from the social sector rather than the private rented sector.

John Griffiths MS, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee said:

“I am confident that this Bill will go some way to helping tenants in Wales. We know that for a large section of society, renting is the best option for them and therefore it’s essential that the rental market works for tenants.

“COVID-19 has shown us that people having security in their homes is crucial. This Bill will help by extending the notice period that tenants receive.

“For the measures in the Bill to work however, we need the courts to operate efficiently, as this is not devolved, the Welsh Government must take all opportunities to ensure the court system takes as much account of Welsh specific needs, such as the significant changes to the private rented sector.  

“It is however essential for us to monitor how these changes will work in practise, I’m urging the Welsh Government to keep it under review and make sure that tenants are well served under the law.”

Rebecca Woolley, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru added:

“We welcome this amendment bill and the increased protection and stability it brings to private tenants. For too long private tenants have been living in uncertainty and we hope this will alleviate some of those concerns. We’re keen to see how these changes are implemented and if they increase satisfaction amongst tenants in the Private Rented Sector.

“The bill is a very welcome start and we hope it will lead to the Welsh Government removing no fault evictions all together.”

 

The Committee is recommending that Members of the Senedd support the principles of the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill at this first stage and have made recommendations for improvements. The report will now be debated by Members of the Senedd as part of the legislation process and the Welsh Government will respond.

Read the report - Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill - here

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