Housing law reform by Professor Helen Carr contributes to new Renting Homes Act in Wales
22 January 2016
Research into housing law reform by Kent academic Professor Helen Carr has contributed to a new law aimed at protecting the rights of both tenants and landlords in Wales.
The new Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, granted Royal Assent this week, has been described as 'ground-breaking' legislation by the Welsh Government. It will improve the lives of more than one million people who rent their home in Wales, replacing complex pieces of existing legislation with one clear legal framework.
Professor Carr was seconded to work with the Welsh Government following previous work with the Law Commission developing proposals to reform the law in relation to supported housing. She said: 'The Welsh Government were inspired to make the reform of housing law one of their first legislative initiatives in part as a result of a paper that I co-authored with Professor Dave Cowan from the University of Bristol and Professor Caroline Hunter from the University of York.
'It's been an exciting process, involving meetings with government lawyers, civil servants and housing activists all of whom have been concerned to improve the legal framework of renting and to make it a valid housing choice rather than second best. With the growth in private renting and the emergence of ‘Generation Rent' it would be great if England took a lead from Wales and tackled the challenge to reform and modernise housing law.’
The new Act will:
- replace the majority of current tenancies and licences with just two types of contract – one for the private rented sector and one for social housing
- require landlords to issue a written statement of the contract which clearly sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants
- require landlords to carry out repairs and ensure rental properties are fit for human habitation. It will also help protect people from being evicted simply for complaining about the condition of a property
- help to prevent people being made homeless when a joint tenant leaves a tenancy, thereby ending the tenancy for everyone else
- do more to help victims of domestic abuse by enabling the person carrying out the abuse to be targeted for eviction
- help a landlord to recover a property in situations where the tenant abandons it
Professor Carr's interest in housing and social justice began when she was a solicitor at Bradford Law Centre in the 1980s, working to uncover the poor conditions of houses in multiple occupation (HMO). She subsequently co-authored a commentary entitled Using the Housing Act 2004: a practical guide (published by Jordans Ltd in 2008) which set out the statutory framework for regulating HMO as well as other measures designed to improve conditions in the private rented sector.
Most recently, Professor Carr co-authored a research report with Professor Cowan and Dr Alison Wallace entitled Exploring experiences of shared ownership housing: reconciling owning and renting which was launched in the House of Lords in July 2015.
Professor Carr teaches property law to undergraduate students at Kent Law School and is currently completing a book on homelessness with Professor Caroline Hunter. As well as research interests in housing, Professor Carr undertakes research in the fields of social welfare and public law. She is interested in the regulation of the poor especially the homeless, the asylum seeker, the anti-social and those in need of care. She is a Judge with the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) where lessees can appeal against service charges, tenants can challenge rents and landlords can appeal against regulatory action taken against them by local authorities.
Professor Carr will be hosting a drop-in session entitled ‘The homeless person’s obstacle race’ at the Beaney in Canterbury from 1pm – 4pm on Wednesday 27 January. She will also be delivering a talk on homeless people and their animals in the first of a new series of public lectures to be hosted at the Beaney at 6pm on Thursday 28 January.