It now takes more than five months on average for private landlords to regain possession of a property when applying to the courts, according to new data from the Ministry of Justice.
Landlords must follow strict procedures if they want to evict a tenant and gain possession of their property, and unfortunately that can sometimes involve the courts, especially when trying to regain possession because of poor tenant behaviour and their refusal to leave.
Following a question tabled by Kevin Hollinrake MP, co-founder of Hunters estate agents, the government confirmed that the average time taken for a landlord to repossess a property was 22 weeks in 2017, which is up from the 16.1 weeks it had previously quoted using a less common calculation of the average.
This masks considerable regional differences, with the wait for a property to be repossessed being 25 weeks in London and with a low of 18 weeks in the South West.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) fears that the long delay in dealing with cases means that a landlord may go without any rent or suffer damage to the property before the tenant finally has to leave.
The RLA is warning that the government’s efforts to develop longer tenancies will fail without urgent court reforms to ensure landlords can swiftly regain possession of a property in cases such as tenants failing to pay their rent, committing anti-social behaviour or damaging the property.
The landlord association says that many landlords are using section 21, or ‘no explanation’ evictions, because the alternative process that requires applications to the court are too long and cumbersome.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, commented: “These figures show that the court system is failing to secure justice for landlords and tenants when things go wrong.
“If Ministers want to roll out longer tenancies landlords need the confidence that in cases where they legitimately want to repossess a property the system will respond swiftly. It is not good for either tenants or landlords to be left in a prolonged period of legal limbo.
“We hope that the government will press ahead with a properly funded and fully fledged Housing Court.”