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Scrutiny Questions Minister on Proposed Residential Tenancy Law Reforms

Apr 27, 2023

On Wednesday 26 April, the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel held a Quarterly Public Hearing with the Minister for Housing and Communities, Deputy David Warr. 

The Panel questioned the Minister on his Residential Tenancy Law Reform Proposals Paper (white paper) which outlines proposals for a new Residential Tenancy Law (“the Law”) to modernise the current residential tenancy legislation. The white paper was described by the Minster as a ‘direction of travel’ outlining high level policy objectives, but the Minister aims to bring a fully encompassing Law to the Assembly towards the end of 2023, the details of which will be informed by an 8-week stakeholder consultation period.  

The Panel questioned the Minister on the consultation process and key components of the proposed legislation. It heard: 

•    Consultation has begun, engaging key stakeholders and representative groups, to gather views on the details of the proposed legislation. The Minister will talk with third sector groups to ensure opinions of migrant communities are included in the consultation process.

•    An in-committee debate on the white paper will take place during the States Meeting week commencing Tuesday 02 May, looking specifically at four key thematic sections: 

1.    Tenancy types, notice periods, termination of contracts

2.    Rent and charges 

3.    Minimum expectations for provision of social housing 

4.    Powers of investigation of offences and penalties, and the creation of a Housing Tribunal

•    The Law would establish an independent Housing Tribunal as ‘an appropriate housing court of law’ if it is approved by the States Assembly. Its scope will be broader in remit to that of the previously proposed (and rejected) ‘Rent Control Tribunal’. Complaints from tenants or landlords will go first to a Government Officer, before being escalated to the Tribunal, then, if necessary, the Courts. Further details on the tribunal are yet to be clarified through consultation.

•    The Panel raised concern that having open ended tenancies (where tenancies can only be ended for specific reasons) as the default, as suggested in the white paper, might alienate private landlords. The Minister assured the panel open ended tenancies will be carefully considered with stakeholders during the consultation process.

•    Enhanced tenancy agreements will be introduced to bring greater clarity from the outset as to the expectations of tenants and landlords.

•    Further protection for tenants will be provided by the introduction of powers of investigation, which will help to anonymise complaints.

•    There will be ‘a list of some description’ for circumstances in which landlords and tenants can request to terminate a tenancy early.

•    An enhanced eviction process will be produced. These will go through the Housing Tribunal rather than the lengthier process of going through the courts. 

•    The Law will establish a formal definition of social housing, social housing providers and expectations relating to the provision of social housing to mitigate against any potential ‘laissez-faire’ approaches from social housing providers. 

•    The Minister is looking at ways rent can be controlled through rent increase specificity, but not through rent baselines.  

The Chair of the Panel, Deputy Stephen Luce, said: ‘The Panel is pleased to see work is being done to update the current Residential Tenancy Law, to make it more fit for purpose for both tenants and landlords. We encourage the Minister to ensure the consultation process gathers a full range of views and circumstances to fully inform the Law before it is brought to the States Assembly for debate. We want to ensure these changes can provide greater protection for tenants without alienating private landlords, or indeed any other stakeholder, given the housing issues the Island is facing.’ 

A full recording of the public hearing can be watched here

States Assembly Press Notice

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