The Government has launched a consultation, with the aim of reforming the avenues to justice for tenants and landlords, with the most controversial measure being the introduction of a new Housing Court. At the moment, most housing cases, such as possession cases, are taken to County Court and the first-tier Tribunal Property Chamber. However, many find the process confusing, especially with no support. Evidence has shown that landlords are wary of longer term tenancies because of the cost and time of taking a repossession case through court.
New data provided by the Government has confirmed that the average time it takes for a repossession case from a private landlord to progress from the claim stage to possession by a County Court bailiff is around 16 weeks. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has added that it understands that a small minority of landlords experience a process that takes longer than average, which can become burdensome. In some cases, a landlord may need to serve notice, then apply for a possession order from the court, seek enforcement through the court, then wait until bailiffs can attend, before regaining control of the property.
Considering the Case for a Housing Court, as the consultation is titled, is inviting views from tenants and landlords, with the aim of helping the Government improve and better understand the experiences of people using tribunal services and the courts in property cases. This consultation will also include making the case for a Housing Court, which would specialise in the industry, to simplify the process and reduce delays.
The four main choices given in this consultation are:
– Establish a new Housing Court
– Conduct structural changes to the current courts and property tribunals, moving some specialist housing cases and non-possession cases to the Tribunal, or transferring some cases to the county court from the Tribunal.
– Make alterations to the enforcement process within the county court, with more information provided to claimants advising them of what actions must be taken in order to complete the process. In addition to this, the Government wants to understand if more information is required by landlords to know what to do on the day of an eviction, and in particular, further information on the enforcement process as this is not automatic and must be applied for.
– No changes to the current process, but increase the guidance available to help users navigate the Tribunal and court process, as well as understand their responsibilities and rights.
Industry experts have welcomed the news, as it proves that the Government is at last listening to the concerns of the sector. The industry has long urged the Government to take a comprehensive approach to the laws that are in place which govern the private rented sector, and many view the consultation as an acknowledgement of the necessity for the review. For example, for long-term tenancies to become standard across the sector, an adequately functioning court system is vital. It is believed that the formation of a Housing Court would be a large step forward for tenants, agents and landlords alike, and that it will have a positive impact on the industry.
The consultation will close on 22nd January 2019, and landlords are encouraged to submit their views.
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