Lesley Griffiths – Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I am pleased to inform Assembly Members I have introduced the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill.
Housing is an important influence on health, education prospects and employability, as well as affecting the communities in which we live. An effective housing system is crucial to people’s ability to meet their housing needs and improve their lives. In recent years, the number of people renting their home has been increasing. One in three people in Wales (over 1 million in all) now live in a rented home and there has been a particular increase in the number renting from a private landlord.
For most people, renting their home works well. However, some encounter serious problems which can be difficult to resolve. Many of the problems and the difficulties in overcoming them, arise because of the complicated legal arrangements which apply to rented housing. Those renting from a Housing Association have very different legal rights to those renting from a Local Authority. Furthermore, a private tenant moving into another property with a different landlord, will almost certainly be confronted with a completely different written contract. Some private landlords do not even provide a written copy of the contract, relying on a verbal contract instead. This makes it very difficult to be certain what the terms of the contract are and makes resolving any disputes later even more difficult.
The law has become complicated for two reasons. Firstly, there are many separate pieces of legislation applying to renting and secondly, there is also a large amount of common law, some of which dates back over centuries.
The time has come to make the law for renting a home clearer and, at the same time, address the inequalities and other problems which result from the current arrangements. The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill will establish a single legal framework for renting a home. The result will be much greater clarity and consistency in the rights and responsibilities of those who rent their homes, irrespective of who the landlord is. Instead of the many different types of contracts that apply now, there will be two main contract types and every landlord will be required to issue a written statement of the contract.
Alongside greater clarity and consistency, the Bill will help many people who find themselves in very difficult circumstances. For example, it will enable the perpetrators of domestic abuse to be evicted without risking their victims becoming homeless, it will help to tackle housing-related anti-social behaviour more effectively and it will require landlords to ensure homes are fit for human habitation. In addition, greater flexibility will encourage landlords to rent to people they may consider to be higher risk, and make it easier for someone to find somewhere to rent short-term, for example, on moving to an area for work or education purposes.
The Bill will help protect occupiers from retaliatory eviction and make it possible for young people to rent. It will also enable landlords to repossess and re-let abandoned properties more quickly than currently is the case. Improved arrangements for joint occupation contracts are included in the Bill, which will prevent one of the occupiers being able to end the contract unilaterally and it will enhance the right to succeed to an occupation contract when the current contract-holder dies. The Bill will also establish a legal framework for supported accommodation, which plays such an important role in housing vulnerable people.
The Bill is grounded in a five-year programme of work carried out by the Law Commission. The recommendations in its Renting Homes report formed the basis of the White Paper “Renting Homes – A Better Way for Wales”, which was published in 2013 and for which there was very strong support. I want to thank everyone who responded to the White Paper and who has contributed to the Bill’s development to date.