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Government announces proposals for new Housing Court

Tuesday 13 November 2018

The Government has launched a consultation which looks at reforming the routes to justice for both landlords and tenants, with the most radical option being to set up a new Housing Court.

Currently, most housing cases are heard in the County Court (e.g. possession cases) and the first-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), but many can find the process daunting and confusing, especially without support, with evidence showing that landlords are fearful of longer tenancies because of the time and cost in pursuing a repossession case through the courts - an argument that we at ARLA Propertymark have made too, most recently in our consultation response to own evidence Overcoming barriers to longer tenancies. 

The latest government data shows that the median average time taken to progress a private landlord possession case from a claim to possession by County Court bailiff is just over 16 weeks. MHCLG do add that "they understand that for a minority of landlords it can sometimes take longer than the average and can be burdensome. For example, a landlord could be required to serve notice, apply to the court for a possession order, seek enforcement through the courts and then wait until bailiffs are able to attend before recovering their property."

The consultation, Considering the case for a Housing Courtinvites views from landlords and tenants and aims to help the government better understand and improve the experience of people using courts and tribunal services in property cases, including making the case for a specialist Housing Court, which it's hoped would reduce delays and simplify the process. A housing Court is something ARLA Propertymark has called for as far back as 2016, and in various consultation responses since, saying it would speed up the system, increase expertise in the decision making process and ensure greater consistency with reduced costs.  

Four main options given in the consultation are as follows:

  • Establishing a new, specialist Housing Court.

  • Making Structural changes to the existing courts and property tribunals - is a case for moving certain specialist housing cases (non possession cases) into the Tribunal or for moving some cases from the Tribunal to the county court.

  • Make changes to the enforcement process in the county court - more information advising claimants of what they need to do to complete the process. Additionally, we want to understand whether there is a requirement for more information on what the landlord needs to do on the day of eviction, particularly as the enforcement process is not automatic and needs to be applied for.

  • No changes, but strengthen guidance to help users navigate the court and tribunal process and understand their rights and responsibilities.

ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive, David Cox said:

“We welcome today’s news and are pleased the Government is finally listening to the industry. We have long urged Government to take an holistic approach to the laws governing the private rented sector, and are optimistic that today’s announcement is an acknowledgement of the necessity for this approach. For example, in order to address the issue of long-term tenancies, we need a properly functioning court system. The creation of a Housing Court would be a huge leap forward for landlords, tenants and agents alike, and have a wholly positive impact on the sector.”

Whilst housing policy is devolved, the jurisdiction of the county court is England and Wales. MHCLG say that they will work closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that any changes to the current functions of the county court take account of devolved policy in Wales.

Take part

The consultation closes on 22 January 2019 and we encourage you to respond, and to let your landlords know about the consultation. We shall of course be submitting our own response, which you are also welcome to feed into. Simply email: timdouglas@propertymark.co.uk

 

Considering the case for a Housing Court: call for evidence