If you rent out properties in Wales, take note of the new tenancy rules that came into force this month.
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 radically overhauls rental processes. As of 1 December, all Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) have been replaced with the new standard occupation contract – existing tenancies included.
All ASTs must be converted into new occupation contracts by following the guidance provided by the Welsh government, which may make some clauses invalid if they conflict with the ‘Fundamental Terms’ of the new Act. These include important aspects of the contract like repair obligations and possession rules. By contrast, clauses that conflict with the Supplementary Terms may be kept.
Landlords who convert an AST to a standard occupation contract must provide a written statement of the new contract to the tenant (referred to under the new rules as “contract-holder”), within six months of the Act being implemented.
The biggest changes are to eviction rules. Contract-holders cannot be given a no-fault eviction notice within the first six months of the contract, and the notice period has been increased from two to six months – meaning that as long as they stay within the terms of the contract, they cannot be evicted for at least a year. Break clauses can only be included in contracts with a fixed term of at least two years, and may not be used within the first 18 months of such contracts.
There are also tougher rules around the condition of properties. Rented homes must be fit for human habitation (FFHH), and contract-holders will not be required to pay rent for any period in which the home isn’t fit.
As part of the FFHH requirement, landlords must now install at least one hardwired and interlinked smoke alarm on each floor of their properties, as well as a carbon monoxide detector in any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance installed by the landlord. In addition, owners must carry out an electrical safety test at least once every five years. Smoke and CO alarms must be in place before any new contract-holder moves in. Where a contract-holder is already present, landlords have until 1 December 2023 to install the correct number of smoke alarms.
Making life easier
However, some of the changes in the Act may make life easier for landlords.
When rented properties have been abandoned by the contract-holder, landlords will no longer have to apply for a repossession order. If the landlord believes the property is abandoned, they can give four weeks’ notice before entering the property.
For joint contracts, such as those used for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), landlords may also add and remove individual tenants without having to reissue the whole contract.
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