The Welsh Conservative spokesperson for housing and Member of the Welsh Parliament for Aberconwy, Janet Finch-Saunders, has urged the Welsh government to review the possibility of developing a dedicated housing tribunal for Wales.
Finch-Saunders noted that serious rent arrears remain a problem for landlords despite many adopting a sympathetic attitude to tenants having difficulty in paying their rent.
In October last year, the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee recommended the investigation of the need for a ‘standalone and specific’ housing tribunal in Wales to ensure that access to justice is not unreasonably delayed upon enactment of the new ‘grounds’ provisions in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.
The Committee highlighted the Minister’s acknowledgement that there would be an inevitable rise in workload for an already overburdened court system.
Finch-Saunders said: “It is incredibly concerning that, at the point of possession, a landlord can have amassed costs of more than £30,000 when lost rent, legal fees and damage is calculated.
“Delays are also reported at every stage of the possession process, with the median time standing at 21.1 weeks by March 2020.
“Taken together, this results in a fundamental lack of faith in the present court system from our landlords and risks undermining the legal redress protections enacted for tenants by the Renting Homes Act.
“As legislation continues to diverge from England, it is clear that proactive, tried and tested intervention is now needed.
“In October last year, the Welsh parliament’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee recommended the investigation of the need for a ‘standalone and specific’ housing tribunal in Wales.
“Today, in conjunction with Propertymark, I have urged for a review to be undertaken into the possibility of developing a dedicated housing tribunal for Wales.
“Fair access to justice for both landlords and tenants is an essential part of a well-functioning housing market.
“We cannot be left with a situation where the present route to possession leaves landlords with immense financial burdens, pushing them towards the less problematic route of self-accommodation lets, and leaving tenants with problems around their mental well-being.”
Daryl McIntosh, policy manager at Propertymark, added: “We have repeatedly called on the Welsh government to recognise the merits of introducing a dedicated housing tribunal for Wales and are delighted to be working with the Shadow Minister for Climate Change to urge action that can strengthen access to justice for both landlords and tenants across Wales.
“Now is the time to act; when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is enforced next year, an entirely new tenancy regime will be created, bringing with it uncertainty for letting agents, landlords and tenants.
“A dedicated housing tribunal allows for free and accessible access to justice for all parties, from specialist judges whose knowledge would bring consistency in decisions.
“It is this specialist knowledge that will ensure the protections the Welsh Government intend to provide for tenants under the Act will not be undermined.
“A new system would also bring back confidence to landlords, who having been faced with adversity and a poor experience, are at risk of leaving the sector.
“At a time when the PRS in Wales is providing homes for over 200,000 households in Wales it is important that landlords can have faith in the protection of their assets when needed.”