It is some time since I have written a Welsh post – the decision by the Welsh Government to delay the introduction of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 was necessary but also had the effect of allowing us all to deal with other things.
However, since I started work again, going over the legislation and trying to work out what it all means, I have had a feeling that I needed to look at variation of contracts.
Indeed, every morning for a while, I have woken up saying to myself, “I really must take a look at variation”. But something always got in the way.
I had a feeling there was something buried in the legislation that needed to be dragged out and shown the light of day. And I have now found that thing.
It is this:
The content of Welsh ‘occupation contracts’ are largely prescribed and cannot be altered save in a very limited way. There are basically two ways they can be changed:
- By agreement (and that can only be, in the main, in respect of clauses which are not fundamental clauses), and
- By an ‘enactment’.
Once a contract has been varied, landlords must provide contract holders with a written statement, an accurate written statement, mind you, either of the varied term(s) or of the whole contract.
And, AND, if this is not done within 14 days of the date the contract is amended, the landlord will be liable to pay compensation to the contract holder of up to two months worth of rent.
Now I can understand this in the context of changes which have been agreed, particularly if these have been at the request of the landlord.
However, is it fair to penalise landlords if they fail to pick up that the Welsh government have passed legislation which amends the prescribed terms in an occupation contract? What, for example, if a self-managing landlord is in intensive care having been mown down by a bus?
Landlords also need to be aware that they will be liable even if the omission is made by their letting agents. As, under agency law, landlords are liable for everything agents do, or don’t, do.
This creates quite a difference between the obligations of English landlords and landlords in Wales. In England, landlords don’t have to provide tenants with a tenancy agreement at all, let alone provide full and accurate details of any changes made as a result of government enactments.
Welsh landlords take note
So if you are a landlord of a property in Wales, it behoves you to keep a careful eye on the landlord press and ensure that you are up to date with any legal changes.
I don’t suppose in practice that the Welsh government will start passing multiple enactments changing the terms of occupation contracts – but if they do, you need to know about it!
And make sure that proper notification is given to your contract holders pronto.