HThe RLA has called for significant changes to the legal system to give landlords and tenants swift access to justice.
The association believes the current system is not fit for purpose, with housing issues dealt with by a range of civil and criminal courts and tribunals.
In its submission to the government consultation ‘Considering the case for a Housing Court’, which closed yesterday, the association called for a new specialist housing court to be created, bringing together all these areas of housing work under one roof.
In practical terms it believes the court should be judge-led and sit outside existing court buildings, in civic buildings, schools or even pubs – outside opening hours of course – to relieve pressure on court buildings and speed up the process.
Currently landlords whose tenants are not paying rent wait an average of 22 weeks before being able to gain possession of their property.
Tenants are facing an equally slow and complex process, dependent on local authority enforcement to tackle disrepair issues.
A new court – a key part of the RLA’s election manifesto back in 2017 – could make things better for both parties, and the association has been at the forefront of the campaign for change.
In its consultation response the association shared members’ experiences of the possession process, described by one landlord as: ‘Very painful. It took an average of eight months with very heavy financial loss as the tenant was not paying rent.’
It also detailed RLA research findings, which showed 45% of members responding to its survey had experienced delays when trying to repossess properties through the courts and 85% were dissatisfied with the amount of time taken.
The RLA also told the government members are ‘universally dissatisfied’ with the possession process and that the amount of time taken simply increases the level of debt the tenant is in, with this money rarely recovered.
One landlord said it took them more than four years to regain possession of their home – and they lost more than £10,000 in the process.
Landlords also feel the County Court fees are too high.
In the document the RLA has proposed the government tackles this by privatising the County Court bailiff – which would save the Ministry of Justice money and improve the level of service, as companies would need to compete for work.
In all 91% of landlords responding to the RLA’s research said they support the creation of a new specialist housing court.
The association discussed plans in a meeting with Minister for the PRS Heather Wheeler MP last year and calls for a housing court also formed part of the RLA submission ahead of the Autumn Budget.
To read more about the RLA’s vision for the new court click here.
To read the consultation response in full click here.
To read RLA policy manager John Stewart’s blog on the benefits of a new specialist housing court click here.