Has the time come for a dedicated housing court for landlord and tenant possessions?
The book “The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken”, reminded me of the judicial inefficiencies that sometimes exist in not just the criminal justice system but also aspects of the civil justice system across the country.
For property litigators dealing with possession proceedings, spending excessive amounts of time on the phone trying to contact the court, waiting months for a court order or dealing with the court’s occasional misplacement of an important document are unfortunately all too familiar experiences. Delays become all the more serious when landlords are out of pocket due to rent arrears or tenants are uncertain about their ability to stay in a property.
It is unsurprising that recent research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) found that four in five private landlords are discontent with their experiences of using the courts to repossess properties and 54 per cent of tenants believe that the current judicial process surrounding possession claims are too complex.
With reforms expected of the Section 21 and Section 8 procedures, there is a possibility that fewer possession cases will be dealt with on the papers alone and will require court hearings for the purposes of adjudication. This risk putting extra pressure on an already stretched existing court infrastructure.
One solution could be the introduction of a dedicated housing court, which could prioritise litigant communication alongside the administration of justice. In an ideal world, provision should be made for litigants and their representatives to speak with a court representative without delay, the introduction of an upgraded and efficient court filing system and a method for landlords and tenants being able to electronically track the progress of their case throughout the lifecycle of a claim.
With a new Minister heading up the Ministry of Justice, it is hoped that this appointment comes with a fresh set of ideas to overcome some of the inefficiencies which exist in the housing possession regime.