Renting Homes (Wales) Act: What you need to know about housing associations and evictions in Wales
Following the deferred implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act from 15 July to 1 December this year, there has been lots of discussion about the impact on both landlords and those who rent a home in Wales. We’ve previously written about what the delay means for housing associations and their tenants but understandably many people still have concerns about big issues such as eviction - not least because our country continues to face a cost of living crisis.
The new legislation is designed to give tenants more security, particularly in the private rented sector. One of the biggest talking points recently has been around the changes it will make to ‘no fault evictions’. Also called a section 21 eviction or notice, this type of eviction is issued by a private landlord when they wish to repossess a property without establishing a fault on the part of the tenant (for example, if they wish to sell their property). Under the new legislation, the notice period for no fault evictions will be extended from two months’ to six months’ notice for new tenants. Converted tenancies (i.e. tenancy agreements that were in place before 1 December 2022) will continue to have two months' notice. Housing associations do not use this type of eviction.
Temporary regulations, which extended notice periods for all evictions to six months, were in place from July 2020. These regulations supported tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic,- but came to an end on 24 March 2022. Now, organisations such as homelessness charity Shelter Cymru are concerned that some private landlords will take advantage of the implementation delay to evict tenants ahead of the increased notice period. Recently, Bevan Foundation also released research which found that 17% of social housing tenants are worried about losing their homes due to rises in household costs.
For housing associations, eviction has long been - and will continue to be - a last resort. Their role in providing housing goes far beyond bricks and mortar, to helping tenants to build a home and supporting them to live well. Housing associations exist for a social purpose and are dedicated to supporting tenants’ wellbeing and financial resilience.
Rare instances of eviction
Housing associations are very heavily regulated and have to adhere to strict rules and regulations for the benefit of their tenants. Alongside this, they have openly made commitments such as ending eviction into homelessness.
An eviction notice (also know as a ‘notice of seeking possession’) is typically only issued if there is no other option, for example in cases where there has been severe anti-social behaviour which is impacting the community, and even then notice is issued only after the housing association has worked with and supported the tenant(s) to resolve the issue. Housing associations have a responsibility to all their tenants, including neighbours who are affected by behaviour like this.
A tenancy may also not be sustainable where a tenant has come into severe rent arrears. But this is extremely rare and will only happen where they have not engaged with the support repeatedly offered by their housing association - you can read some examples of how they do this below.
How housing associations support their tenants
Supporting tenants through rent arrears is the preferred method of addressing the issue for housing associations, over enforcement or eviction. The message housing associations share with tenants who are struggling is always, ‘talk to us, we can help you’.
They take a people-centred approach to rent arrears which means that dedicated teams look into what is happening in individual tenants’ lives, and create a flexible solution to get them back on track with their rent payments, or potentially find somewhere that is more affordable for them to live.
In addition to supporting tenants directly, housing associations also look at local and national schemes that may be able to offer rent support, and guide tenants through the application process. For example, when Welsh Government announced an extension to its Tenancy Hardship Grant scheme, Tai Tarian housing association in Neath Port Talbot took the opportunity to run a take-up campaign, tasking staff with identifying tenants that they could support through the claims process. The grant was available to people who had been working and lost their income or job due to Covid-19 and either did not claim or were ineligible for Universal Credit.
One tenant who successfully applied for this grant with the help of the team at Tai Tarian was awarded £840.90 towards their rent arrears. This person lived with their wife and children, and had lost their job in 2021 which resulted in being unable to pay their rent.
Another recent example comes from Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA). In one case where a tenant was facing homelessness, the team supported them to apply for rent rescue from a UK Government fund administered by local authorities. The payment resulted in this tenant’s arrears being dramatically reduced from more than £7,000 to under £700. Following the successful application, the tenant expressed his gratitude to CCHA, and said that he now had a fresh start to begin his life without fear of losing his home.
In addition to supporting in times of crisis like this, housing associations provide ongoing support and guidance to their tenants on how to personally manage arrears and debt, and maximise their income. Teams work hard to set all tenants up for success from the day they move in.
If you are a housing association tenant who is concerned about or is struggling with rent and household costs, please contact your housing association directly. A specialised, local team is in place to support you.