Shaking up property disputes - it's about time
It really is all change in our industry at the moment as yet another consultation is unveiled by government ? this time on the idea of setting up a new ?Housing Court?.
Proposals were outlined yesterday (13 November) by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire that aim to shake up the property dispute system and find better ways of resolving legal issues between landlords and tenants.
The Government wants views and opinions on the:
- private landlord possession process
- user experience in both the county courts and the First-tier Tribunal for property cases
- case for a new Housing Court
- case for other structural changes such as an extension of the remit of the property tribunal
Other proposals include reducing the need for multiple hearings in different courts, transferring certain types of housing cases between the courts and tribunal to get quicker resolution and providing better guidance for landlords and tenants to help them access the legal system.
At the moment legal disputes that centre on housing are dealt with in a range of different ways, depending on the issue in question. This is confusing and can put people off seeking a solution to their housing problems. Some families and vulnerable tenants live in fear of being forced to move or being evicted if they complain about a housing problem. This isn?t good enough. And the problem isn?t all one-sided. Landlords may also struggle to get their property back even when they have a legitimate reason to do so.
The government hopes the proposals set out in the consultation will help sort out these problems, making it easier for tenants to pursue disputes and helping enforce their rights under the law. Landlords could also be more confident in offering longer, more secure tenancies where appropriate.
Bodies representing landlords are particularly interested in reforming the current possession process ? which can be long drawn out and costly. The National Landlords Association will be asking government in particular to look at the Section 8 possession process. For those of you who aren?t familiar with the ins and outs of landlord and tenant law, Section 8 requires landlords to seek a court order to gain possession of their property where a tenant has breached the terms of their agreement.
At the moment, claims the NLA, it takes about 18 weeks between a landlord making a repossession claim and getting the property back. This can cost more than £5000. The ?sticking plaster? alternative to Section 8 is Section 21 which kicks in only after a fixed-term tenancy ends or during a periodic tenancy but no reason is needed for serving a tenant with an eviction notice and tenants must vacate the premises within two months. Most tenancies are ended by the tenant ? but in a minority of cases landlords are within their rights to ask a tenant to leave. Reform is long overdue and this consultation may be an opportunity to swing the balance back into the landlord?s favour when a tenant is at fault.
What do you think? The government is looking for views and opinions from both landlords and tenants so to have your say, go to https://bit.ly/2DDmWl3. The consultation runs until 22 January 2019.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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