Government releases housing cases investigation

County Court

The government has published an investigation looking at the factors affecting the progress, timescales and outcomes of housing cases in county courts.

Back in October 2017, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced new measures aimed at improving consumer rights in the private rented sector (PRS), with particular focus on removing barriers to landlords granting longer tenancies.

The new report outlines the findings of a qualitative research study undertaken to understand tenants’ and landlords’ experience of the county courts and First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), and to identify issues that may be deterring them from exercising their rights effectively.

Some landlords reported that they prefer to use the ‘no fault’ Section 21 (S.21) / accelerated possession process to regain possession rather than Section 8 (S.8), even if there are sufficient grounds, such as rent arrears, for using the latter.

According to the investigation, accelerated possession ‘appears to operate relatively well, at least up to “possession order” stage’.

From claim to possession order stage, it offers a streamlined process designed for possession cases, which is supported by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics.

Nevertheless, some landlords said it takes too long to get to possession order stage because even if a S.21 notice is used, there is often an underlying reason for wanting possession, such as rent arrears, damage, or ASB.

Another perceived ‘delay’ factor was the advice and involvement of tenant support services. Most claims proceed without a response from tenants. However, if tenants receive advice at an early enough stage, the complexity of the application gives them more scope to challenge a claim.

The research also revealed backlogs and bottlenecks in court administrative procedures, with some of those quizzed believing that the lack of staff, closure of courts, a high workload and outdated IT led to delays in processing paperwork.

Read the whole report here.

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