Government unveils proposals for new Housing Court
The Government is seeking views on the creation of a specialist Housing Court to provide a single path to raise issues and settle disputes for agents, landlords and tenants.
It would replace the current system that leaves agents, tenants and landlords to pursue claims against one another over housing disputes through a range of routes such as the county court, First-tier Tribunal, magistrates court or high court.
The Ministry of Housing has launched a Call for Evidence that argues the current process can be time consuming for landlords when trying to repossess a property, while tenants can find the process confusing when making or defending a claim against their landlord.
The document seeks views on bringing all housing issues into a Housing Court or whether there should be a clearer delineation of what a county court and the property tribunals cover.
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said: "Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home, and this Government is bringing about real change in making renting more secure.
"This is particularly important for families and vulnerable tenants who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move, or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home. It is also important for landlords who, in a minority of cases, struggle to get their property back when they have reason to do so.
"The proposals announced will help ensure both tenants and landlords can access justice when they need it - creating a fair housing market that works for everyone."
The move was backed by ARLA Propertymark.
David Cox, chief executive of the trade body, said: "We have long urged Government to take an holistic approach to the laws governing the private rented sector, and are optimistic that the announcement is an acknowledgement of the necessity for this approach.
"For example, in order to address the issue of long-term tenancies, we need a properly functioning court system.
"The creation of a Housing Court would be a huge leap forward for landlords, tenants and agents alike, and have a wholly positive impact on the sector."
Landlords were equally welcoming.
David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, said: "Improving and speeding up access to justice in this way would be good news for landlords and tenants.
"It will help root out criminal landlords more quickly, give tenants better ability to enforce rights granted by new legislation on property fitness, and give greater confidence to landlords to offer longer tenancies."
However, the National Landlords Association suggested the Government also needs to review the section 8 possession process, which it said can be too easily challenged by tenants, letting them remain in the property even if they are in rental arrears.
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA, said: "As it stands, the system is failing and needs urgent reform. Landlords are forced to rely on section 21 'no fault' notices, even when there is a breach in tenancy. This is essentially a sticking plaster covering the fundamental issue - that the section 8 process is no longer fit for purpose.
"While the majority of tenancies are ended by the tenant, landlords need to be confident they can regain possession of their properties efficiently in the event of a breach of tenancy to effectively manage their business risk."
The Call for Evidence closes on January 22 and can be completed online.