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Plans to reform Wales possession process paused due to coronavirus

Written by Calum Davies

The Welsh Government has announced it will pause legislation that would have seen the creation of six-month notice periods and, in effect, year-long tenancies.

In a written statement, First Minister Mark Drakeford AM said the Welsh Government has had to prioritise which Bills it wants to pass the legislative process of the Senedd due the outbreak of Covid-19. The two Bills named did not include the Renting Homes (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill is currently in the process of being scrutinised by the Equality, Local Government, and Communities Committee. The RLA had provided written evidence and appeared before the Committee days before initial mass social distancing measures came into place.

The Senedd’s Business Committee report on the Bill’s timetable said that the Committee should have finished their deliberations, produced a report, and reported back to the Assembly by 22 May 2020. The Business Committee also agreed that Stage 2 proceedings should be completed by 16 July 2020, subject to the general principles of the Bill being agreed by the Assembly.

As a result of the First Minister’s statement, it appears another delay is on the cards for the long-awaited implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. The Welsh Government said their intention was to pass the Amendment Bill before commencing the 2016 Act to avoid a new regime in the PRS only to substantially reform it shortly after.

If the Welsh Government still intend to pass the Bill before the end of the Assembly term next Spring, then they will have to rush it through or face starting the legislative process from scratch after the election. This is unless the 2021 Senedd election is postponed – though this is unlikely.

Mr Drakeford also said that when it comes to subordinate legislation, also known as regulations, the Welsh Government’s priority will be those necessary to deal with Covid-19 and Brexit. This will impact Fitness for Human Habitation standards and model contracts – a necessary component of implementing the 2016 Act.

However, one of the priority Bills – the Local Government and Elections Bill – has seen been surrounded by discussion of a “Right to Housing”. What shape this will take remains unclear but given the Bill in which it would play a part and those campaigning for the measure, it is expected to come in the form of a placing a due regard on local authorities.

The Welsh Government has produced guidance for landlords on its website to help with dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak. You can also read the NRLA’s advice here.

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Calum Davies

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