ARLA Propertymark has thrown its weight behind a new dispute resolution service as a quicker and less expensive alternative to court action to resolve tenancy disputes.
In a statement Propertymark praised the work of its letting agent members to prevent and resolve disputes by setting out clear expectations and information as well as holding all parties to account.
But the trade body said it was clear, after speaking with its members, that increased use of alternative dispute resolution could help prevent many more cases reaching the court system.
In its response to the Ministry of Justice’s recent consultation asking for insight into experiences of dispute resolution in and out of the court system in England and Wales, Propertymark backed a push for dispute resolution to be embedded into agents and landlords’ daily processes.
But the response goes on to say: “However, if the UK government plan to ramp up use of dispute resolution efforts as an alternative to court action, Propertymark says it must be focused upstream to help resolve disputes earlier as waiting until cases reach court is simply too late.”
The trade body also said it would be vital to ensure that all potential parties know what it is, and for it to be easily accessible.
Incentives to dispute resolution include a quick and impartial resolution, a reduced cost to a landlord compared to the costs of a court hearing, and for a tenant, the possibility of remaining in their home and the possibility of the landlord offsetting arrears in return for vacant possession.
Faye Greaves, policy officer at Propertymark, says: “Dispute resolution is not always appropriate and suitable, but when it is, letting agents play a key role in preventing and resolving disputes to help keep tenants in their homes and the rent flowing for landlords.
“The UK government has a unique opportunity through their Renters’ Reforms agenda to strengthen and promote alternative dispute resolution for landlords and tenants, and to restore confidence in the justice system.”
Propertymark points out how an internal complaint handling process can be a powerful mechanism to help prevent a dispute from escalating and letting agents are at the heart of ensuring that process runs smoothly.
However, as a complaint progresses, agents may not be best placed to try to resolve conflict.
To tackle this, Propertymark has highlighted that a UK government funded third-party service would supplement the great work that agents are already doing and would make sure tenants and landlords always have access to the advice they need.