2015 was a ground-breaking year for housing law in Wales. With the coming into force of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, for the first time Wales had its own primary legislation in the sphere of housing law. It had begun to cut its own course with the manner in which housing should be provided and managed. Since then the divergence with England has been underlined with the passing of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 although that Act is not yet in force.
It was (and is) inevitable that there are issues of construction and interpretation of the legislation which need clarifying by the courts.
We became aware of one such point last year when the decision of Her Honour Judge Garland-Thomas (who was considering an appeal from the District Judge) was handed down in Jarvis v Evans. The Evans’, are assured shorthold tenants who had fallen into arrears of rent had received a notice seeking possession from their landlord, Mr Jarvis. Mr Jarvis then obtained a possession order to evict the Evans’. However, when he had served the notice, Mr Jarvis was not licenced as he should have been under the provisions of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. He was not registered either. The Evans’ appealed; Her Honour Judge Garland-Thomas held that the notice was invalid and so overturned the possession order. The Landlord decided to take the case to the Court of Appeal. This is the first time Welsh primary legislation in the sphere of housing law has reached the Appellate Courts.
The case is of huge significance for the private rented sector, in order to clarify the relative rights and obligations of private sector landlords and tenants. Hence when Mr Evans approached us to ask us to represent him and his wife we decided to do so on a pro bono basis, to ensure that the case was fully and properly argued before the Court of Appeal and not to risk such an important point being decided without a detailed submission. Without our assistance, the Evans’ would have been litigants in person arguing their case against a Landlord with full legal representation. We worked with our partner Chambers, Field Court and with specialist housing counsel Sarah Salmon and Christopher McCarthy (who also acted pro bono).
For well over 40 years Hugh James has acted for the social housing sector in Wales, and over the course of that time, the existence of a thriving well managed private rented sector has become more and more important to the whole housing picture in Wales. Social landlords now regularly work with private landlords in the provision of housing. Having well-managed properties available in the private sector eases demand on the social sector and it is important that the two can complement each other. So, we felt that helping a tenant underline the need for the private sector to be properly run and managed was a good fit.