Private landlords and letting agents with properties in Wales are being urged to make their views heard in the Welsh Government’s consultation of reforming the possession process.
The consultation “Increasing the minimum notice period for a no fault eviction” was launched on 11th July, and will close on 5th September.
The RLA has prepared a number of tools for landlords to assist in responding to this consultation.
What is the Welsh Government proposing to do?
The Welsh Government is proposing to reform the possession process, replacing the current Section 21 notice with a “Section 173” notice.
These proposals will only take effect when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 comes into force.
The Welsh Government is proposing some major changes to the possession process. This includes:
Extending the notice period. Currently the notice period that landlords have to give when serving a Section 21 is two months. The Welsh Government is seeking opinions on increasing this notice period to six months. This would bar landlords from serving a Section 173 notice for six months from the start of the tenancy.
Also being proposed is to: Introduce a six month ban on serving a second Section 173 notice after the first one expires, prohibiting the use of early break clauses and introducing new prescribed information (something already currently in place in England)
The RLA’s draft response
The RLA has published a draft response to this consultation.
The association is concerned that the current proposals will lead to landlords in Wales waiting for more than a year to regain possession of their property.
This is particularly concerning given that the RLA’s recent fair possessions survey-which was one of the largest ever non-governmental surveys of landlords- revealed that landlords do not seek to gain possession without good reason to do so.
Of landlords who had served a Section 21 notice, 83% had done so due to rent arrears and 51% had used it due to anti-social tenants. In fact, landlords were 5 times more likely to use Section 21 over the Section 8 notice designed for these situations.
The same survey showed that 79% of landlords who had used the alternative grounds-based Section 8 notice to gain possession reported being ‘dissatisfied’ with this process. The average time it took for landlords to gain possession using this route was 15 weeks.
The RLA is concerned that the proposals that are being put forward by the Welsh Government do not mention anything about improving the existing court process for ground-based possession.
The association is concerned that implementing changes to Section 21 on its own will impact on landlord confidence, and could lead to landlords exiting the sector altogether.
What is the RLA calling for?
In the draft consultation response, which you can read here, the RLA is pleased that the Welsh Government does not plan to remove Section 173 in its entirety, however the association is believes that no changes should be introduce without improvements being made first to the grounds-based possession process.
The association is calling for a new, low cost, specialist housing court, in order to retain the confidence of landlords in the sector, if this proposal is to be enacted.
This Housing Court proposal is something that 91% of respondents said they would support, in our recent fair possessions survey.
In addition to this, the RLA would like to see a significant strengthening of the rights to possession in the event of serious antisocial behaviour occurring. Incorporating something similar to Ground 7a of Section 8 with a reduced notice period would allow landlords to have some confidence that the worst tenant behaviour could be ameliorated.
How to make your views heard
The consultation on the proposals closes on 5th September, and the RLA is urging all landlords who have a property in Wales to make their views heard.
In order to assist landlords with making their views heard, the association has prepared a draft response to the consultation, which can be read on our Wales possession reform webpage here.
In addition to this, the RLA is also urging landlords to write to their Assembly Member about the proposals.