The Welsh Government has dismissed fears that Wales could see a further spike in evictions after long-delayed protections for renters were pushed back again.

The comment was made in answer to a number of questions posed to the government by The National this week, the full answers for which can be read below.

It comes as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, with more than one in ten people in the UK skipping meals to save money on bills.

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, which introduces a range of safety measures for tenants and protections from eviction, was expected to finally take effect in July.

But the minister responsible for housing, Julie James, announced that enforcement of the law would again be delayed until December - almost seven years after the Act was originally passed.

The Welsh Government has dismissed fears that landlords could use this delay to evict tenants before the new regulations come in, claiming that it would "not make sense" for them to do so. 

A spokesperson argued that, because the new protections will only apply to tenancies that begin after December 1 2022, landlords would be unlikely to evict their current tenants unless they wanted to sell their rental property altogether. 

In spite of this claim, a landlord that might want to replace their current tenant - for example, if they want to evict a tenant in retaliation for requesting home repairs or improvements - would still have time to do so before the new law comes into effect. 

Demand for rental housing in some areas of Wales has seen reports of prospective tenants face significant competition to secure a home, with some taking out loans to pay for months of rent in advance.

Rent costs have increased significantly during the past two years, and 2021 Ministry of Justice data suggested that evictions were up 207 percent after Covid-era protections were lifted.

The delay has sparked widespread criticism, with former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies - who was involved in drafting the Act - calling for an inquiry into what he termed a "serious failure of implementation".

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Cymru said it was "frustrated" by the delay, noting that its casework suggests no-fault eviction cases in Wales have already doubled over the past year.

"No fault evictions" are so-called because they take place when a tenant is not at fault. Usually it means that the landlord wants to sell up, or rent to someone else.

Ordinarily renters that receive a no-fault eviction notice have two months to leave, but the new law - if all goes to plan - will mean some tenants get six months instead.

Earlier this year, The National reported on a young family who had been forced out of their home through no-fault eviction twice since 2020. On one occasion, they received an eviction notice just a month before their second child was born.

 

 

The Renting Homes Act will also require landlords to ensure homes meet Fit For Human Habitation standards before they're rented out, and will introduce some protection from so-called "revenge evictions" - cases in which tenants are evicted as retaliation for requesting repairs or improvements to their home.

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On Wednesday, The National submitted a series of questions to the Welsh Government's Climate Change and Housing office.

After missing our initial response deadline, answers have now been provided.

The National Wales: A protest against the housing crisis was held outside the Senedd last year. (Picture: Rebecca Wilks)A protest against the housing crisis was held outside the Senedd last year. (Picture: Rebecca Wilks)

Our questions are in bold.

The Housing Minister said in her announcement that she had agreed to delay the Act because she had spoken to landlord reps about the “unprecedented pressures” they face.

Did the minister also speak to groups representing tenants? If so, which groups?

"Throughout the development of the Renting Homes Act, we have worked with organisations which represent tenants, including Shelter Cymru, TPAS Cymru, Tai Pawb, and Citizen’s Advice."

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?

"Social landlords, and particularly local authorities, are working with us to find homes in Wales for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, both through the Homes for Ukraine scheme and our super-sponsor route.

"This has involved a huge effort, such as carrying out property inspections, safeguarding checks and offering support, including with benefits and accessing services."

Shelter Cymru says its casework suggests no-fault evictions have doubled over the past year.

What steps is the Welsh Government taking to ensure landlords don’t use their extra 5 months to evict tenants before the new regulations come in?

"We want to see people in stable and affordable tenancies in the private rented sector.

"Alongside our commitment to build 20,000 social homes for rent this Senedd term, we are funding a number of schemes to increase access to affordable rented homes.

"Unless landlords are leaving the private rented sector altogether, it would not make sense for them to evict tenants ahead of the Act coming into force later this year – they would be replacing tenants on the same terms before the Act comes into force.

"If they contract with new tenants after the Act comes into force, the longer ‘no fault’ notice period will apply."

The National Wales: The Renting Homes Act was passed 6 years ago. (Picture: VisitWales)The Renting Homes Act was passed 6 years ago. (Picture: VisitWales)

Similarly, are resources to support evicted tenants being boosted alongside?

"We have supported 20,900 people experiencing homelessness into temporary accommodation and the support they need to stay safe.

"Alongside the ongoing funding for temporary accommodation, our focus is on supporting local authorities and partners to support people into long-term and stable homes through our rapid rehousing approach.

"In support of this and our ambition to end homelessness, our budget for 2022-23 provides more than £190m for homelessness prevention and housing support and a record £310m for social housing.

"We fund a range of advice services, including Shelter Cymru, which provide independent housing advice – anyone struggling or at risk of homelessness should contact them for advice and support.

"We also fund Shelter Cymru to provide advice and support to young people to help them maintain tenancies and avoid homelessness."

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?

"There will be occasions when a private landlord may require possession of a property for legitimate reasons (for example, they wish to move into the home themselves) but our approach ensures that in all situations the contract-holder will be entitled to a minimum of six months to enable them to find suitable alternative accommodation and make all of the arrangements a home move entails.

"We believe this strikes a [more] fair balance between the interests of the tenant and the interests of the landlord than the current law."

Former minister Alun Davies 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?

"We refer you to the Minister for Climate Change’s written statement."

According to a landlords’ FAQ on the Welsh Government website, the 6 months’ notice protections for no-fault evictions only applies to new tenancies beginning after 1st December 2022.

This means that it’ll 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?

"We are committed to strengthening tenants’ rights and the Renting Homes Act does this.

"Where there are existing contracts in place from before the Act comes into force, we have sought to balance the rights of landlords and tenants."

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?

"We are working to produce a White Paper for consultation on potential proposals for a right to adequate housing and a system of fair rents (rent control) in the private rental market."

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