In a report published today the Law Commission recommends reforms to the legal framework governing rented housing in Wales. The existing law is complex and inflexible. There are many different types of tenancy, and local authorities, social landlords, such as housing associations, and private landlords all have different forms of agreement with their tenants.
The reforms are based on recommendations the Law Commission made in 2006 for both England and Wales. The proposals were rejected for England but accepted by the Welsh Government. Today’s report updates the recommendations for implementation in Wales and demonstrates that the National Assembly for Wales has the necessary power to legislate.
In its report the Commission recommends replacing many existing tenancy types with two forms of contract: a secure contract for social housing and a standard contract for the private sector.
Under the proposals, Welsh Ministers would issue uniform contracts that would set out clearly the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and the circumstances under which either of them can bring the contract to an end.
This is the first report that the Law Commission has produced relating only to the law in Wales.
Social housing is provided by local authorities and housing associations. But the relationship housing associations have with their tenants is currently governed by the laws that apply to the private sector. In a bid to simplify and streamline the framework for social housing, the Commission is recommending that they be brought into line with local authorities and replace their existing tenancy agreements with secure contracts.
To protect the status of existing tenants, the new secure contracts would not permit housing association landlords to evict occupiers automatically if they fall into serious arrears. Instead, they would need to go through the courts, as local authorities must.
The private sector would be expected to use the new standard contract, modelled on the existing assured shorthold tenancy.
Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, says: “This report shows the Law Commission’s commitment to law reform in Wales. Our recommendations preserve, as far as has been possible, the existing balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants. But we know that many housing disputes come about because the law is obscure and hard to understand. Clearly expressed and fair contracts will contribute to the legal security of tenants, as well as enabling both landlords and occupiers to understand the expectations that a rental contract places on them and reducing the need for costly litigation to resolve disputes.
“We are delighted that the Welsh Government has shown the foresight and imagination to take forward these much needed and well received recommendations.”
It is expected that the Commission’s report, Renting Homes in Wales, will inform a white paper to be issued for consultation shortly by the Welsh Government; and that legislation in the National Assembly will follow in 2014.
Notes for editors:
1. The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
2. For more details on this project, visit www.lawcom.gov.uk
3. For all press queries please contact:
Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations: 020 3334 0230
Jackie Samuel: 020 3334 0216