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'Five months to regain possession through courts' new figures show

Private landlords have to wait an average of over five months to regain possession of a property when applying to the courts according to new figures from the Ministry of Justice, analysed by the Residential Landlords Association.

Where a landlord needs to regain possession urgently because of tenants’ anti-social behaviour and the tenant refuses to leave, landlords have to resort to the courts.

The RLA says that the long delay in dealing with cases means landlords may go without any rent, or suffer damage to the property before the tenant finally has to leave.

Following a question tabled by former agent and founder of Hunters, Kevin Hollinrake MP, the government has clarified that the average time taken for a landlord to repossess a property was 22 weeks in 2017, up from the 16.1 weeks it had previously quoted using a less common calculation of the average.

The RLA’s analysis suggests this masks considerable regional differences, with the wait for a property to be repossessed being 25 weeks in London and with a low of 18 weeks in the South West.

The association is warning that the government’s efforts to develop longer tenancies will fail without urgent court reforms to ensure landlords can swiftly regain possession of a property in cases such as tenants failing to pay their rent, committing anti-social behaviour or damaging the property.

As a result, the RLA says, many landlords are using section 21, or ‘no explanation’ evictions, because the alternative process that requires applications to the court are too long and cumbersome.

The government is currently consulting on speeding up justice in the private rented sector and the RLA is calling for a fully-fledged and properly funded housing court to speed up access to justice for both tenants and landlords.

“The court system is failing to secure justice for landlords and tenants when things go wrong. If Ministers want to roll out longer tenancies landlords need the confidence that in cases where they legitimately want to repossess a property the system will respond swiftly. It is not good for either tenants or landlords to be left in a prolonged period of legal limbo. We hope that the government will press ahead with a properly funded and fully fledged Housing Court” says David Smith, RLA policy director.

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