The Welsh Government has declined to clarify whether it will work to prevent landlords from evicting tenants before long-delayed protections take effect in December.

It has also failed to comment on calls by former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies for an inquiry into why the Renting Homes Act, first passed in 2016, is still yet to be enforced.

The Act increases the notice period for so-called 'no-fault' evictions - when a landlord wants to repossess a property if, for example, they want to sell it, or rent to someone else - from two months to six.

It will also introduce protections against "revenge evictions" (cases in which landlords evict tenants because they asked for repairs) and introduces new standards which will require homes to qualify as Fit For Human Habitation before they can be rented.

These regulations were planned to take effect in July, but this week Julie James, the minister responsible for housing, announced that they would be further pushed back to December - almost seven years after the Act was originally passed.

“In the light of the unprecedented pressures they [landlords] face, including Covid recovery and supporting those who are fleeing the war in Ukraine, I have decided to postpone implementation of the Act until 1st December 2022," James said in a statement.

"This will allow more time for landlords to complete the necessary preparations ahead of implementation.” 

The National submitted a series of questions to the Welsh Government's Climate Change and Housing office today, requesting a response by this afternoon. 

They were as follows:

  • The Housing Minister said in her announcement that she had agreed to delay the Act because she had spoken to landlord representatives about the “unprecedented pressures” they face. Did the minister also speak to groups representing tenants? If so, which groups?
  • The minister also mentioned that part of the delay was down to landlords “supporting those who are fleeing the war in Ukraine”. Can this be elaborated on?
  • Shelter Cymru says its casework suggests that no-fault evictions have doubled over the past year. What steps is the Welsh Government taking to ensure landlords don’t use the extra five months to evict tenants before the new regulations come in?
  • Similarly, are resources to support evicted tenants being boosted alongside?
  • No-fault evictions are entirely banned in Scotland, and the UK Conservative government has pledged to ban the practice across the border too. Does the Welsh Government regret not sticking with Mark Drakeford’s original plan to do the same, back in 2019?
  • Former minister Alun Davies, who was on the original Renting Homes Bill committee, has said there “must be an inquiry” into why the implementation of the Act has been so delayed, calling it a “serious failure”. What is the Welsh Gov’s response to this? Will it consider an inquiry?
  • Harry Thompson, the economic policy lead for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, said that this Act and its implementation showed that the Welsh Government had “listened way too much to vested interests”. What is the Welsh Gov’s response to this?
  • According to a landlords’ FAQ on the Welsh Government website, the six months’ notice protections for no-fault evictions only applies to new tenancies beginning after 1st December 2022.

This means that it will be some time before all renters in Wales are protected – renters will have to either be evicted, move voluntarily, or sign a new agreement (e.g. if their rent increases) to be covered.

What is the Welsh Government’s rationale for this choice?

  • As part of the Plaid Cymru cooperation agreement, the Welsh Government has pledged to develop a rent controls policy for Wales. Can we expect similar delays and concessions on this front?

No answers to any of these questions have yet been received.

MORE ON THIS STORY:

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Cymru has said it is “frustrated” by the Welsh Government's delay, adding that its casework suggests no-fault eviction cases in Wales have doubled over the past year.

"This decision will only serve to keep tenants on the back foot," it said on Tuesday.

Rob Simkins, who lives in rented accommodation, has previously worked in the housing sector, and is a member of tenants’ union Acorn, said James had caved in to pressure from landlords. 

“It is worrying that representatives from the landlord lobby seem to have kicked this into the long grass, as if six years isn’t long enough,” he told The National on Tuesday.

Without enhanced protections, Simkins said, thousands of people remain in a precarious housing situation. 

“You could have the best relationship with your landlord but the slightest change could mean you have two months to sort your whole life out."

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