Under-resourced county courts are struggling to cope with the number of possession claims being put forward, ‘causing misery for landlords’ not to mention costly delays, according to Landlord Action.
The vast majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county courts and enforced by county court bailiffs. But government spending cuts, an increasing number of possession cases, court delays and administrative errors mean evictions are taking longer than ever, pushing many landlords into debt.
In a recent Section 21 case handled by Landlord Action, a tenant claimed she did not receive the ‘How to Rent Guide’ so the court set a hearing date of 27th June 2019. But the court postponed the hearing with just 24 hours notice because the Judge was no longer available.
Several hearing dates have since been set and cancelled, leaving Landlord Action with little choice but to chase for a new date some 12 months after the original Section 21 notice was served back in January 2019, and the landlord no closer to gaining possession.
“We are experiencing cases like this time and time again” said Paul Shamplina. “It’s not only causing extra work for us at Landlord Action, meaning we now have a full-time member of staff whose main responsibility is chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues and bailiff appointments, it is also causing extreme stress for the landlords who are already facing financial hardship as a result of rent arrears.”
Landlord Action is now calling on the government to increase investment in the court system before pressing ahead with plans to scrap Section 21 of the Housing Act, as part of the new Renters’ Reform Bill.
Shamplina continued: “The situation is the worst I have experienced in my 28 years in this industry. Cases are being overlooked, delayed or thrown out due to administrative errors and there is little we can do to improve matters for landlords when we are at the mercy of the courts.
“Remember, many courts were closed due to cost saving by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).”
The eviction specialist fears that the number of court cases will double once Section 21 is abolished as landlords will be forced to use Section 8, which require a court hearing.
He added: I do not believe the government has a thorough understanding of the implication that scrapping Section 21 will have on the courts with the extra administration, recruitment of more judges (which is extremely difficult) and requirement for more bailiffs.
“As I have said many times before, if we do not have a clear message from the MOJ that there will be sufficient investment in the court system, then landlords will lose confidence.
“Combined with all the other changes, some landlords will feel that the length of time to gain possession of their property is too great a risk, so may decide to sell up - we have already seen this at Landlord Action. There must be a call for evidence on the implementation of a Housing Court.”