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Agents say: We need a dedicated housing court

The vast majority of letting agents and private landlords with experience of using the courts to repossess properties say the system has serious shortcomings. 

According to one of the largest ever surveys of landlords and letting agents, conducted by the Residential Landlords Association, 91 per cent of landlords would support the establishment of a dedicated housing court.

In a letter to the new Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland MP, the association warns that with ministers pledged to scrap Section 21 ‘no explanation’ repossessions, the courts are simply unable to cope with the increased pressures they will face.

It currently takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to court for a property to be returned to them.

In Scotland, when similar reforms were undertaken, the Government had to invest new money and provide more staff after it underestimated the increased pressures brought on the court system.

It is not just landlords who find the system difficult to work with. According to previous research published by Citizens Advice, 54 per cent of tenants have said that the complexity of the process puts them off taking landlords to court where their landlord is failing to look after their property. 

Some 45 per cent of tenants said that the time involved put them off taking action through the courts.

With landlords and tenants able to take different types of cases to different courts, the RLA argues that simply tinkering with the existing system is not good enough. It is calling on the Government to establish a single, dedicated housing court that is properly funded and properly staffed.

At present, landlords can repossess properties using two routes. Section 21 enables a landlord to regain possession at the end of a tenancy and requires two months’ notice to be given but without providing a reason. Alternatively under Section 8, landlords can repossess a property under a number of set grounds including rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.

David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, says: “Ministers are proposing some of the most far reaching changes the private rented sector has ever seen. If the new government decides it wants to proceed with these it is vital that significant and bold reforms are made to the court system.

“With landlords and tenants failing to secure justice in a timely fashion when things do go wrong, anything other than wholesale changes with proper funding to support it will lead to chaos.”

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