Following news that the Welsh housing minister Julie James AM has proposed that the notice period on Section 21 or no-fault eviction notices should be extended in Wales, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has released criticism in a recent statement.
The proposed changes relate to Sections 173 and 174 of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, known as the Welsh equivalent of Section 21. Under existing law, landlords are unable to repossess a property during the first six months of a tenancy. Following this, at present, landlords must also give two months’ notice, meaning a potential eight-month wait until they can repossess, provided they are successful.
New proposals to extend this notice period, from two months to six, would have the effect of rendering landlords unable to repossess for at least a year into a tenancy. Ms James explained that the proposals for extending no-fault notice were required, in order to improve security of tenure for all tenants.
Shift in policy
The Welsh Government’s proposals were announced when Welsh housing minister Julie James AM addressed the Shelter Cymru conference in Swansea last week. This followed First Minister Mark Drakeford having signed a pledge to end no-fault evictions being used by Welsh landlords back in April.
Such a move would bring Wales in-line with England, after the UK government announced that they intended to scrap Section 21 eviction notices in England. Critics of scrapping Section 21 altogether often warn that such a move could result in indefinite tenancies.
Proposals for scrapping no-fault eviction notices entirely seem to have been put on hold, in favour of focusing on notice period extension, as the Welsh Government admitted facing legislative timetable constraints. Ms James explained that they did not wish to delay the introduction of new occupation contracts any further.
Risk of damaging confidence
The RLA criticised the Welsh Government’s proposals for extending the notice period, warning that it would effectively create 12-month contracts by default.
Douglas Haig, RLA vice-chair and director for Wales, explained: “Creating a situation where a property cannot be repossessed within the first six months and then introducing a further six-month notice period could cause huge problems for landlords.”
Mr Haig explained: “They will be left powerless when it comes to problem tenants, who will be legally allowed to stay in the property for a year. If tenants are not paying rent, huge arrears could build up in this time. We will be warning the Government that this move could cause serious damage to landlord confidence and the availability of homes to rent in Wales, at a time when demand continues to increase.”
As a final request, Mr Haig added: “The Government needs to ensure that landlords with a genuine need to gain possession are able to do so.”
The Welsh Government announced plans for a consultation on its proposals in the coming months.