Landlords call for new housing court
A leading organisation for landlords is calling for a new specialist housing court which will deliver 'quick and cost effective justice' for landlords and tenants.
The plea is one of six 'major asks' by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) ahead of next month's general election.
RLA policy director David Smith described the court system as 'slow, complex, and underfunded', with landlords facing an average wait of 43 weeks when seeking possession against a tenant who does not pay their rent.
He said: "It is unacceptable but not entirely surprising that faced with such a long wait some landlords seek to take the law into their own hands and force tenants out.
"From the other perspective tenants find the court system equally slow and hard to navigate.
"When faced with landlords who are not fulfilling their repairing obligations it is difficult for tenants to establish what their rights are, to obtain expert evidence to prove the disrepair, and to actually get the money that they are owed, or get an order to make a landlord put their property in repair.
"As a result tenants are driven to under-funded and over-pressed local authorities who, RLA studies show, only respond to around half the complaints about property standards made to them."
Now the RLA is calling at this election for the next government to commit to a new, properly funded, housing specialist court, modelled on the existing Residential Property Tribunal.
Like the current Tribunal, the court would have its own experts - obviating the need for parties to hire external experts - and would also visit properties itself in order to assess their condition, cutting back on the need for witness statements and arguments over the state of a property.
Where appropriate, the specialist court could deal with cases on paper and also direct parties to mediation to settle their differences.
"Most importantly, it would be able to use its specialist knowledge of property and of the law to decide matters without the need for expensive lawyers and long arguments," added Mr Smith.
"This would reduce costs for landlords and tenants, provide better access to justice, and reduce the cost of the process for the parties and for the government."
He highlights a similar specialist tribunal which has been successful in Scotland 'for some time', which deals with housing disrepair matters and has now expanded it to cover possession matters as well.
He said: "We have invested a great deal into the existing Residential Property Tribunal structure but continually limit its operations to matters involving HMO licensing.
"The RLA is calling for that Tribunal to be able to do much more and to use its substantial expertise to benefit the PRS across a wider range of issues."
Alex Huntley, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance, added: "Anything which helps solve tenant disputes more quickly is great news for landlords. It currently costs considerable time and money to take a dispute to court, which is why it's so important that landlords make sure their insurance covers them for legal expenses - and consider taking out rent guarantee to plug the gap of any lost income. Quicker resolutions could mean lower premiums for this sort of cover in the future."
For more information about the RLA's General Election Manifesto 2017 visit: https://news.rla.org.uk/campaigns/general-election/manifesto/