Sweeping changes to legislation give council-house tenants more secure occupation

COUNCIL house tenants in Carmarthenshire will have more secure occupation thanks to sweeping changes to housing legislation in Wales, cabinet members were told.

Landlords must be more proactive repairing and maintaining properties under the law, and give two months’ notice of any rent increase instead of one.

Councils like Carmarthenshire which have retained their own housing stock, plus housing associations and private landlords, will all be affected by the Renting Homes (Wales) Act, which comes into force on December 1.

Some landlords have criticised the new legislation, saying it brought in onerous restrictions in favour of tenants – like six rather than two-month notice periods – but ministers have said it was about getting the right balance between property owners and renters.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Cllr Linda Evans, cabinet member for housing, said: “The new act has made changes that will improve tenants’ rights, although the legislation that tackles anti-social behaviour is still in place.”

The council will issue “occupational contracts” – formerly known as secure tenancies – to tenants in its 9,000-plus houses and flats, and end introductory tenancies. Meanwhile, tenancy agreements will be known as a “written statement of terms” and tenants will be called “contract holders”.

A report before cabinet said notices to end tenancies won’t be able to be served unless the property has up-to-date electrical and energy performances certificates. The act also introduces 29 “fitness for human habitation” elements, and says that if landlords don’t respond to issues raised by tenants in a timely manner, tenants could ask a court to award compensation equivalent to a day’s rent for every day they have been inconvenienced.

The legislation also strengthens succession rights for tenants in the event of their death, but this won’t apply to people in temporary homelessness accommodation.

If someone is placed in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than 12 months they will be need to be issued with a “standard contract”, which has a six-month notice period.

The cabinet report said the new act had “had major implications” for the council as a landlord and as provider of temporary homeless accommodation, but added that it had updated all its legal agreements and contracts so that they were compliant.

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