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A Welsh Government decision to extend the notice period required before possession proceedings can commence, has been roundly criticised as made in haste, without consultation, and without an impact assessment having been conducted.
The criticism came in a letter from National Residential Landlords’ Association chief executive Ben Beadle to the Welsh Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James.
The NRLA had previously expressed ‘disappointment’ at the announcement of the extension, made on 23 July by way of a written statement. This said the change was temporary and would ‘delay evictions during the ongoing public health emergency’. The regulations came into effect immediately, ignoring the convention that 21 days’ notice should be given of such changes.
‘I sincerely hope this sudden move does not signal a return to a situation where landlords feel excluded from the policy process and that their views are ignored’, said Beadle’s letter.
‘Landlord confidence, as indicated by our index, is already low. Low confidence and insecurity about the future is traditionally closely correlated with divestment, and we are concerned that some of the hardest hit landlords in Wales may choose to withdraw from the sector. We do not wish to see a reduction in housing stock available for tenants, when it could be avoided. This would be problematic for Wales where private landlords have an important role in providing homes for people – particularly where local authorities have been unable to’.
The Welsh Government’s action appeared to suggest a misplaced view that landlords are immune from the effects of the Coronavirus crisis, said Beadle. ‘This fails to recognise that the majority of landlords are individuals who let out one or two properties, many of whom rely on that income for their day to day living expenses, to provide a pension, and to pay for care home fees. Unlike other groups, there are no direct financial measures to help landlords carry the burden brought about by the Welsh Government’s decision’.
The Welsh Government should work constructively with landlords who are already doing all they can to sustain tenancies, said the NRLA chief executive. ’A six-month notice period, however, is unhelpful for landlords who have done the right thing by their tenants, but for whom arrears may become unsustainable without other support. Locking a non-paying tenant into a failing tenancy with a six-month notice period simply ignores the problem and leaves landlords carrying the whole burden’.
Beadle noted a report, published this week, from the Welsh parliament’s own Legislation, Justice, and Constitution Committee, criticised the way the changes had been introduced and concluded they risked breaching landlords’ human rights.
‘We are calling on the Government to reconsider its decision and develop a financial package to support landlords and tenants by offering interest-free loans to allow tenants to cover their rent’, said Beadle.
‘Eviction is not the inevitable outcome of rent arrears, and the Welsh Government needs to work constructively with landlords who are already doing all they can to sustain tenancies’.