Rebecca Evans, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
I am pleased to inform Assembly Members that I have today introduced the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill (‘the Bill’), together with its explanatory memorandum and regulatory impact assessment.
In summary, the Bill:
- Makes it an offence for a landlord or letting agent to require a person to make a payment which is prohibited, or to enter into a contract for services, or to require the grant of a loan, as a condition of the grant, renewal or continuance of a standard occupation contract1;
- Provides for certain exceptions, these being rent, security deposits, holding deposits and payments in default (a payment required under the contract where the contract-holder breaches the contract).
- Provides for investigation powers, enabling investigating officers, authorised by local housing authorities, to give a notice requiring information of any person as part of an investigation. An offence will occur if the person served a notice fails to comply with its instructions. This carries a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
- Provides for enforcement arrangements. Local housing authorities will have powers to issue fixed penalty notices to any person who has committed an offence of charging a prohibited payment as a condition of the contract. The offence may be discharged by paying the fixed penalty notice. A person found guilty of an offence by the Magistrates court will be subject to a fine, which is not subject to any maximum on the standard scale.
- Permits applications to be made through the county court to recover prohibited payments or unreturned holding deposits, if the Magistrates court convicts a person of an offence.
Provides for offences committed by a body corporate to be within the scope of the Bill.
The responses to the Welsh Government’s consultation seeking views on the nature and level of fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector have also been published:
Subject to the Bill being passed, key legislative changes will be made regarding the payments, that can be required of contract-holders as a condition of the grant, renewal or continuance of a standard occupation contract in the private rented sector (known as ‘permitted payments’). It will make it easier and cheaper to rent, and help improve the overall functioning of the sector. The Bill prohibits payments unless they are permitted removing a number of the significant costs contract-holders are likely to face at the start of, during, and end of, their contract.
I will make an oral statement about the Bill tomorrow.
1 Under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, standard occupation contracts will replace the current assured shorthold tenancy as the default tenancy in the PRS. Furthermore, tenants and licensees are termed ‘contract-holders’ under Renting Homes.