You probably didn’t see it in the news, there certainly wasn’t a big announcement to welcome it, but on March 24 the Welsh Government meekly rolled over to the landlords’ lobby and reduced eviction notice periods from 6 months, to 2 months.

Despite the warm words and ambitious rhetoric, the reality is that the Welsh Government made a political choice to pack private tenants off down the river in an attempt to make them someone else’s problem. The very same private renters who have endured rocketing rent increases, barely-checked and often bare-faced discrimination and whose extortionate homes are the least energy efficient, meaning they will be the most adversely impacted by the deepening cost of living crisis.

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It never had to be this way – and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The long-awaited Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is due to finally be implemented this year, yes in 2022.

The protections the Act offers are a positive step in the right direction. However they’ll arrive far too late for the hundreds, if not thousands, of private tenants who will undoubtedly have their lives turned upside down in the next few months when served with a Section 21, or no-fault, eviction notice. This will give people two months to get out of their homes and find somewhere else to live – along with all of the stress and expense that this process perpetuates.

Additionally, the Welsh Government had already rolled over the additional protections for tenants under the Coronavirus laws since the eviction ban ended last year. This day had been coming since the very start of the pandemic.

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Last year, the Welsh Government, councils and support organisations moved mountains to accommodate thousands of people who had been or were subsequently pushed into homelessness. They then triumphantly declared that “no one will have to go back” but here we are, less than 2 years later, in the perilous position whereby people are being evicted into a pressure cooker of a rental market where the landlords and letting agents hold all of the cards.

Make no mistake, this decision will push people into homelessness. This totally avoidable decision will push people into – or further into – poverty, deprivation and desperation. It will further bloat an already bursting-at-the-seams homelessness system which sees over 7,300 people pushed into homelessness, including nearly 2,000 children.

Shelter Cymru’s recent article showed that they are already seeing a 78% increase in no-fault evictions, even before the notice period dramatically decreases. This window of reduced protections will see nothing short of a gold rush for landlords, as they gleefully evict tenants and get contracts signed before the law changes later in the year – so that their tenants’ contracts will be on the old terms and not protected by the new laws. Another fine mess.

There are many things to celebrate regarding the Welsh Government’s commitments to housing, but 20,000 new social homes and creating a national construction company (among other positives), won’t be much comfort to the renters up and down Wales, frantically fighting one another for homes as the ladder is pulled away from them.

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The decision flies in the face of supposed Labour values and the ambitious vision for a Wales without homelessness, with fair rents and a homes that enable people to live their lives without having to look over their shoulder every month.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong and would be happy to, but for many renters like me – this is yet another kick in the teeth.

Rob Simkins is a renter in Wales and member of ACORN the union.

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