Factsheet 49 - Welsh Legislation for Agents and Private Landlords

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Welsh Legislation for Agents and Private Landlords

Overview:

This factsheet is designed to be used in conjunction with the Letting Handbook and lists the principle legislation that applies to Wales and differences between the English and Welsh legislation. The Welsh Government has been able to change housing law in Wales since 2006 and published a White Paper “Better Lives and Communities” in May 2012 and after consultation with interested parties was followed by Wales’ first Housing Bill in November 2013.

Commencement: 

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 came into force on 17th September 2014. It is intended that the private rented provisions will be introduced by commencement orders set by Welsh Ministers over the course of 2015 and 2016. The requirement for landlords and agents to register and become licensed starts on 23rd November 2015. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 18th January 2016.

Housing (Wales) Act 2014:

Part 1 of the Act deals with the Regulation of Private Rented Housing and it provides the following:-

  • all private landlords must register themselves and the addresses of their rental properties in Wales with the designated licensing authority;
  • landlords who undertake defined letting or property management activities at a rental property in Wales must become licensed. If a landlord instructs an agent to do such work on their behalf, the agent must be licensed;
  • in order to get a licence a person must be adequately trained, and also declare themselves ‘fit and proper’;
  • the licensing authority and individual local authorities where rental properties are located are responsible for any necessary enforcement action against non-compliance;
  • the legal regime will replace the existing voluntary “Landlord Accreditation Wales” scheme which is operated by Cardiff Council on behalf of all local authorities in Wales;
  • the new licensing authority will establish a comprehensive, central database of all private landlords and agents that operate in the sector. Limited information will be publicly available on-line;
  • the licensing authority will operate a training and development provision; however people applying for a licence can choose to attend scheme specific-approved training courses delivered by other bodies.

Anyone managing a property must have a licence that will require payment of a fee, passing a Fit and Proper Person test and agreeing to adhere to a Code of Practice. Landlords and agents will also have to attend and pass a one day training course to obtain a membership identification number which must be displayed on all property letting related documents. The licence will be valid for five years.

Landlords and agents will have 12 months from 23 November 2015 in which to comply with the legislation and from 23rd November 2016 enforcement powers such as fixed penalty notices and prosecutions will be introduced.

Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016: 

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act introduces two types of occupation contract which will replace existing tenancies and licences; a secure contract (generally used by Local Authorities) and a standard contract (generally used by private landlords for assured shorthold tenancies).

Once implemented the Act will require landlords to issue a written statement of occupation contract setting out the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the person renting from the landlord. A model tenancy agreement will be produced to assist landlords but is not intended to be compulsory. The timescale and introduction of the new proposals are at present unknown. It is however clear that the approach to the private rented sector in Wales is moving in a new and different direction to that in England.

The Act sets out the principle aspects of these new occupation contracts, the “fundamental terms” and “key matters.” Fundamental terms set out the primary rights and responsibilities under the contract and will cover, for example, the requirement to provide a written statement of the contract and the process for ending the contract. Key matters will cover, for example, the address of the property, the occupation date, the level of rent and the rental period etc. Supplementary provisions will be set out in regulations made by the Welsh Minister and will relate to other rights and responsibilities that apply under the contract.

Legislation differences in England and Wales: 

At the time of writing the current differences in legislation between England and Wales are as follows:

Redress Schemes

Since 1st October 2014 all agents who carry out letting agency or property management works in England are required to become a member of an approved redress scheme for dealing with complaints in connection with that work under Section 3 of the Redress Schemes for Lettings Agency Work and Property Management Work (Requirement to Belong to a Scheme etc) (England) Order 2014. At the time of writing this is not currently a requirement in Wales.

Water charges

Since 1st January 2015 there is a legal obligation on landlords who rent properties in areas covered by Welsh Water and Dee Valley Water areas to inform the water companies of the occupants of their property by 31st March 2015 for existing tenants and within 21 days of the start date of a tenancy with new tenants. This includes most of Wales but not the area supplied by Severn Trent Water. The mandatory information to be provided is the full names of all occupants, the date of birth, where known, the address of the tenancy and the tenancy start date. For existing tenants landlords should have done this by 31st March 2015 but if you missed the deadline you should still notify the water company but you may still be liable to pay the tenant’s water and sewerage charges up to the date of notification.

Statutory Forms

The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015, SI 2015 No. 620 came into force on 6th April 2015 and amendment regulations 2016 No. 443 came into force on 6th April 2016. Both sets of regulations apply to England only. The Regulations amend six statutory forms; Notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy, Application referring a notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy to the tribunal, Tenant’s notice proposing that an assured tenancy be replaced by an assured shorthold tenancy, Landlord’s notice proposing an assured shorthold tenancy where the tenancy meets the conditions for an assured agricultural occupancy, Section 8 notice and Section 13 notice. From 6th April 2015 landlords in England and Wales must use different versions of the above forms which are available at www.letlink.co.uk

Section 21 - All new tenancies created in England on or after 1st October 2015 are required to follow the new section 21 rules under the Deregulation Act 2015. These rules do not apply in Wales and the existing section 21 requirements for service of notice should be used in Wales. See Lfacts 21 for more information.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into effect on 1st October 2015 but these do not apply in Wales. From 1st October 2015 smoke alarms must be installed on each storey of rented properties and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted in each room of rented properties which contain a solid fuel burning combustion appliance in England. All alarms must be checked at the start of each new tenancy in England. Currently in Wales properties built since 1992 must be fitted with mains-powered, inter-linked smoke detectors/alarms but landlords would be advised to provide at least battery operated alarms in older properties. There is also a legal requirement for a House in Multiple Occupation to have a mains wired alarm fitted in Wales.

Sources for Further Information:

This summary is intended to assist landlords and letting agents to understand the effect of the Regulations/Act.  It is not an authoritative interpretation - this is a matter for the courts.  For more detail, you should refer to the text of the Regulations/Act themselves.