As the time it takes the courts to process repossession cases increases, so it seems to do the calls for a specialist housing court to be established.
Landlords, represented by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), are calling on the government to accelerate the establishment of a dedicated housing court, fearing that the delays are not only frustrating landlords who need to regain possession of their properties but will also deter owners from letting a property out in the first place.
At the beginning of 2019, the government conducted a consultation exercise inviting views on the idea of setting up a specialist court for housing cases.
The proposal was welcomed by landlords, some homeless charities and housing groups who felt that the introduction of a housing court would speed up the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants and improve consistency in decision-making.
However, The Law Society remained unconvinced, claiming that a specialist court would not solve the problem of the numerous procedural delays and system failures that plague the housing claims system.
New figures obtained by the RLA suggests that the average length of time from a landlord making a claim in London to a court issuing an order for a property to be repossessed for legitimate reasons has increased from 23 weeks in 2018 to 30 weeks in 2019.
The RLA is concerned that without reform and more funding, pressure on the courts will increase along with the delays experienced by landlords.
In a statement released on 15 January 2020 David Smith, RLA Policy Director, said: “The RLA was delighted when the government consulted on its proposal for a housing court a year ago but nothing has happened since. It needs to get on and get it set up for the benefit of landlords and tenants alike.”
Housing law is much broader than just repossession cases. A specialist court would need the capacity and expertise to deal with all housing litigation, from disrepair cases, rent arrears, breaches of tenancy agreements to anti-social behaviour and injunctions.
At the heart of the matter has to be swift access to local justice. If specialist courts are to be established to alleviate the problems with the current system, there are still questions to be answered about where those courts would be and how frequently they would sit.
Any solution must produce a more efficient system that works for both landlords and tenants bringing rapid justice for both.