The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill was announced yesterday, and is due to enter the Welsh Assembly Government later today (10th). Communities Minister Lesley Griffiths said that the Renting Homes Bill aims to make renting “clearer and easier for all”, but we are not so sure.
The first issue with the Renting Homes Bill is that it wants to introduce just two types of tenancy agreement, one for the private sector and one for the social sector. The aim of this is to make the process simpler and easier. In principle this sounds good, however these new contracts need to be given out in conjunction with 4 extra documents, and that’s before we include gas certificates. This means that the total page count for a new tenancy could well be in excess of 60 pages, where as most previous tenancy agreements were done in 20-30 pages or so.
And yes you guessed it, if you miss out one of these documents, or fail to walk new tenants through the masses of paperwork, you could be facing a hefty fine.
The Renting Homes Bill doesn’t stop there, it also includes a clause intended to stop ‘retaliatory evictions’. In principle this again sounds great, no tenant should be evicted for reporting a legitimate issue with the property nor should any tenant fear making a complaint through threat of eviction. Although current laws exist to protect and prevent against retaliatory evictions, this new clause would see section 21 notices referred to court if a tenant makes a complaint. It would then be up to the courts to decide if the “landlord has made the possession claim to avoid complying with [repair] obligations”.
This new clause could result in long and costly court proceedings, and a savvy tenant could use it to extend the period which they stay in the property. Furthermore giving the courts too much discretion means that landlords don’t know where they stand in the eyes of the law and it could result in inconsistent hearings.
This bill was only announced on Monday, so it is important that if landlords are to make their voices heard the come along to the Forums. The next Cardiff Landlord Forum will be on the 24th of March.
Cardiff Council Updated Guidance on Fire Alarm Testing
The Cardiff Landlord Forum Committee has asked Cardiff Council to provide guidance on the installation on the maintenance and testing in private rented properties. In response, they have issued the following updated guidance for landlords with properties within Cardiff Council (please contact the relevant department directly separate guidance for properties in other local authority areas).
The licence holder shall ensure that any automatic fire detection and warning system, conforming to Grade A of BS 5839 Part 6 (incorporating a control panel) is inspected regularly to ensure that it is in full working order. The Council recommends that such a system be inspected and serviced in accordance with BS5839 Part 6 and the installers recommendations. As a minimum, the Council will require that an annual inspection and servicing certificate is retained by the licence holder. The Council strongly recommends that any servicing body is certificated under the British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) Scheme (www.bafe.org.uk). Any fire alarm system conforming to Grade D of BS5839 Part 6 (a system of mains operated smoke or heat alarms with battery back up and no control panel) is regularly tested by activation of the test button and is cleaned periodically in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Records should be kept of the testing and cleaning of this type of system.
We hope that this guidance adds clarity to the matter.