Campaigns Regulation and Enforcement

Courts are failing landlords and tenants

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

Seventy nine per cent of private landlords with experience of using the courts to repossess properties are dissatisfied with the way they work.

According to one of the largest ever surveys of landlords and letting agents, 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 RLA, which conducted the research, has warned 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. 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. One, known as 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. Under the other avenue, known as 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, said:

“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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About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.


  • Many years ago the press was full of reports about the number of houses standing empty. The reason often given was that it was so hard to get a property back once rented. If I have the timeline correct, along came Section 21 so that property owners could get their property back without massive legal battles. So remove S21 and we are likely to turn full circle. The problem is a chronic shortage of housing. Tinkering with legislation is a political manoeuvre, nothing more

    • Absolutely correct!
      The campaigning that Shelter, Generation Rent, et al have done to lobby the Government into abolishing Sec.21 will result in more Tenants being hurt, pay higher rents, struggle to find houses to live in, etc than the few who will benefit form the abolition of Sec.21

  • I agree, many of the recent changes in housing legislation are a result of the government trying to make private landlords more responsible for housing people who would have been in council housing in the past. There is now a huge shortage of council housing. Landlords are often not wealthy but are expected to upgrade property and pay to take unwanted tenants to court amidst a system that does not want to receive these people and provide for them. The court system is generally in favour of the tenant. The same is true for Citizens Advice and Shelter who will not help landlords but simply signpost them to costly solicitors. The present Section 21 eviction allows a process that is more efficient, less costly and more easily possible for landlords.

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