Possible Delays for Renting Homes

20th April 2020 Commercial Litigation

The Welsh Government has hinted that the Renting Homes (Wales) Act may be further delayed, possibly beyond the original planned implementation deadline of May 2021 which would lead to further and possibly longer delays. 

As part of a written statement in response to the Covid-19 crisis the Welsh First Minister indicated all but two Bills would be de-prioritised. These were to do with electoral reform and education. This means that the Renting Homes (Wales) (Amendment) Bill which is currently in its committee stages in the Welsh Assembly is likely to be delayed. This Bill was to substantially alter the ability of landlords to give notice to tenants meaning that the equivalent notice to a section 21 notice would need to have six months notice and could not be given for six months, effectively guaranteeing a minimum twelve month tenancy in Wales.

This poses a significant problem for the Welsh Government. They had previously stated that the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 would not be brought into force without the Amendment Bill first being passed. However, there is a hard deadline with the upcoming elections for the Welsh Assembly in May 2021. If the Amendment Bill is not passed by then it will be lost unless it is carried forward to the next Assembly. In addition, the Renting Homes Act will also be subject to substantial delay as attention will turn to electioneering and a new government will take time to form. It is even possible that a new government will have an entirely different view of the whole subject and radically rethink the Act. That election date is pretty much set in stone. The Coronavirus Act 2020 does not confer a power to change it. 

At this stage the Welsh Government has three options:

  1. Push on with the Amendment Bill and seek to stick to their original timetable. This will be hard given that Assembly members will have different priorities and will not all be able to be physically present in Cardiff;
  2. Go with the Renting Homes Act as it is and amend it later. This will move things forward and preserve a timetable but will likely be seen by tenants as a betrayal of their interests. However, Renting Homes is such a big change in how things work that the shake up it causes may move the market sufficiently in tenants favour that the Amendment Bill will no longer be perceived as necessary;
  3. Accept yet another delay in the very long-running saga of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. 

None of these options are entirely satisfactory. The temptation will be to let things lie in the hope that they will improve. But that would be a dangerous gamble and it might be better for the Welsh government to decide on a course now and push ahead. 

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David Smith is a Partner located in Londonin our Commercial Litigation department

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