Russian-owned property under spotlight as new law brought forward

Housing Court plans backed by think tank

Moves to set up a Housing Court to resolve disputes and simplify the current complicated system have been supported by leading think tank.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have released a report entitled “Sign on the dotted line?”, and among their recommendations is that the government should establish a specialist Housing Court.

The issue has been given prominence in recent weeks with a government consultation process ending in late January. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is also firmly behind the idea of a Housing Court, describing the current way of resolving property disputes as “broken”.

Dispute process lengthy, confusing, complicated for all

The IPPR make a single place of adjudication one of several recommendations in its report. The current process is fragmented and confusing, adding delays and stress to both landlords and tenants when disputes need resolving. Cases can currently be heard in a variety of courts – county, first-tier Tribunals, magistrates or even the High Court.

The RLA says it takes landlords an average of 22 weeks to take possession of their property if a tenant is not paying their rent while the Ministry of Justice has found that, on average, a successful possession case takes 18 weeks.

And the IPPR make a more radical suggestion, proposing that Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notices – which all landlords have had to comply with since last October –  are abolished altogether. Instead, they propose:

 “…a mandatory open-ended tenancy, removing selling a property as a ground for eviction in the first three years of a contract and limiting rent increases to once a year, capping them in line with the consumer price index.”

Plentiful support for change to system

Pressure group Generation Rent suggested in July 2018 that the law be changed to make harder for landlords to evict tenants, unless the tenants had not met their legal obligations.

An English Housing survey in 2016/17 found that 10% of private tenants left because they were asked to or given notice. With 20% of households and 4.7 million people in the private rented sector, there is huge potential for disputes.

Streamlining and easing the process is a must, and the signs are that the government is willing to listen, but whether radical reform like that suggested by IPPR will happen remains to be seen.

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