Extra protection for renters during the Covid-19 outbreak

While housing is normally a devolved issue, Welsh Government announced that any strengthening of protection for renters in the Coronavirus Bill drafted by the UK Government would also be applied in Wales for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus Bill recently passed through Parliament and extends the notice period for evictions in the private rented sector from 2 months to 3 months, ensuring landlords cannot apply to start the court process until after this period.

While initially the extension of the eviction notice period only applied to new eviction proceedings, the UK Government gave way to the pressure from the Labour Party and suspended all ongoing eviction proceedings in the courts. This means that cases currently in the courts, or about to enter the court system cannot proceed. This suspension will last for an initial 90 days with an option to extend.

However, this new legislation does not go far enough to ensure that renters who experience financial difficulty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic do not lose their homes

My colleague in the Welsh Assembly and First Minister, Mark Drakeford together with his ministerial team have since decided to go further, with plans to extend the notice period under section 173 – Landlord’s Notice – for no-fault evictions from 2 months to 6 months, and are extending the restriction of the issuing of this notice from 4 months 6 months after the occupation of a contract currently making its way through the Welsh Assembly.

This all means that such eviction notices cannot be made until 6 months after the beginning of a ‘periodic standard contract’ – the default contract used by private landlords, and court proceedings will not be allowed to begin until 6 months after this, effectively protecting private tenants from eviction for 12 months from the beginning of their contract.

This is designed to allow contract holders to find optimal alternative accommodation in the eventuality of a no-fault eviction, decreasing the likelihood that families will having to leave their communities with children having to change schools.

Furthermore, these changes will, it is expected, encourage landlords to use, where relevant, the breach of contract possession ground. While this only requires a one-month notice period, it allows the tenant(s) to present their case at court. This means that the court could decide not to grant possession to the landlord where there are good reasons for breaches of the contract, for example a delay in benefits caused the rent to be late.  I believe that these measures will provide many renters with peace of mind during these deeply uncertain and worrying times.

Tenants with financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 should speak in the first instance to their landlord to attempt to reach an agreement, but the additional measures introduced by Welsh Labour are also there to support tenants.

If you have received a notice of eviction which does not comply with this new legislation, or are worried that your landlord or agent is operating unlawfully, you can also contact:

Citizen’s Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/contact-us/

Advicelink Cymru: 03444 772 020

(phone lines operate between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday and it is usually busiest at the beginning and the end of the day. They are not open on public holidays)

Text relay: 03444 111 445

Shelter Cymru: https://sheltercymru.org.uk/contact-us/

Housing help/advice and expert debt advice: 08000 495 495 (phone lines operate between 9.30am – 4.00pm, Monday to Friday)