Landlords have been anticipating the Renting Homes (Wales) Act since 2016 and housing managers have long since been warned this is the biggest change in housing legislation for decades. Now that the implementation date of 1st December looms ever closer, many teams are starting to realise that the implications of the Act reach wider than their housing management remit and are in fact essential knowledge for in-house professionals specialising in development, human resources, assets and finance.
The new Act has added an additional requirement that as well as being in repair housing must meet the “fitness for human habitation” standards. The standard comprises two elements.
Firstly, a very specific requirement to ensure properties are fitted with carbon monoxide detectors and hard wired and interlinked smoke alarms, and that cyclical electrical testing is done. Secondly, the property must be assessed with reference to 29’matters and circumstances’ to ensure that it is fit. It is necessary to consider some of these at the design stage, for example to ensure that standards around floor space to prevent overcrowding are met, to consider the requirement for properties to be insulated not only from cold and heat but also from noise, and to ensure that requirements relating to the design of facilities for the preparation and storage of food meet the expectations in the guidance.
Landlords have for several years been subject to compensation claims for failures to fulfil their repairing obligations which is already a real concern. As well as adding the ‘fitness’ requirement to the repair one, the Act also specifically provides that much more must be communicated to the tenant in writing, particularly around carrying out repairs and access to do so. Landlords are likely not only to have to give written notice of appointments, but also to confirm in writing if they agree work is required and if so when it will be completed. This may already be an integral part of some organisations’ policies but ensuring that staff follow best practice approaches and understand the reasons behind them is likely to require a degree of training and monitoring.
There are some aspects of the Act that may need to be considered with a view to security and relationships with lenders. Depending on the agreement in place, lenders’ consent may be required, in which case Heads of Finance need to ensure they are suitably prepared and supported.
Many organisations have recruited policy leads in order to prepare for the Act coming into force. Many are also recognising that some of the more exacting requirements of the Act mean that they are likely to need to recruit further at several levels to ensure they are staffed ready to comply. Similarly, some specialist housing staff who have worked for years under the existing rules are inclined to leave the sector rather than embark on navigating the challenges of the December legislation. Heads of HR need to be aware of these potential resource issues as well as the support that some staff may need if feeling overwhelmed and upskill managers to identify and help solve problems as they arise.
HJ Housing Week 2022
With the largest social housing team in Wales, we’re continuing to bring our legal experts together every year in a week dedicated to everything housing. ‘HJ Housing Week’ strives to cover the full spectrum of housing issues using our 40 years of experience advising the sector.
Whether you are looking for a deep dive into a particular issue with a masterclass, an introduction to a new practice area that impacts your work or opinion on the commercial and policy decisions of the future, our blend of webinars, in-person events, articles and videos throughout HJ Housing Week will deliver the information you need at a time that suits your schedule.