Renting Homes Appears to be Delayed Again

1st March 2021 Commercial Litigation

On 23 February the Welsh Government announced that the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill has finished its passage through the Welsh Parliament. The Bill is now in a standard waiting period until 23 March during which the Westminster government is allowed to object to the Bill on the basis that it exceeds the powers devolved to Wales. Assuming that does not happen, and there is no reason to assume that it will, the Bill will get its Royal Assent and become part of the law of Wales.

This Bill does nothing immediately. What it does is amend the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 even though this Act is not yet in force. The amendment means that the equivalent power to a section 21 notice in that Act, which allows a private sector landlord to take back a property on the basis that the agreed contract has come to an end will be modified. In the original Act the power was very similar to that of s21 in the Housing Act 1988. Two months’ notice to expire at the end of six months from the start of the tenancy. The amendment means that such a notice will now be six months and it cannot be given inside the first six months of the tenancy. In effect, therefore, all Welsh tenants will have an initial one year tenancy and will always get six months’ notice to leave unless they are in breach of contract.

What is particularly interesting about this new Bill, however, is not the Bill itself, that was well known. It is the manner of the announcement. The second paragraph of the announcement states that the changes made by the Bill “mean that from spring 2022…” This is a little odd. As far as anyone knew the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 was to be brought into effect in the lifetime of the current Welsh Parliament. That meant before the elections set for May 2021 which appear to be going ahead. This was what was originally stated, admittedly before the Covid-19 pandemic, and nothing has been said to the contrary. But Renting Homes cannot possibly be going ahead this year only to be amended next year by the new Bill, there would be no need and no point. Therefore, the phrasing of this announcement appears to be a tacit admission that Renting Homes is not in fact to come into effect in 2021 but rather in early 2022.

This is not a huge surprise. Clearly, the Welsh Government has other things on its mind right now. None of the guidance and consultations that would have been needed to get Renting Homes up and running had been published and it was well past time that this needed to happen to make a May 2021 start date. Some landlords will no doubt be happy about the continued delay in a piece of legislation which is not universally welcomes but it is generally worse to have the constant uncertainty of having a piece of legislation that is on the statute books but not in effect. Hopefully, 2022 will finally be the year that the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 comes into force, six years after it became law.

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

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