The Law Society has urged the Government to improve the
current redress system in the private rental sector, rather than introducing a
specialist housing court.
In a response to a Government
consultation on the proposed new housing court, the Law Society stated that
housing claims suffer from numerous procedural delays and system failures, but
a separate court is not the solution to fixing them.
The organisation believes that it is wrong to radically
change the system in favour of a “relatively small” number of private landlords
Instead, the Law Society backed improvements to resourcing
existing courts, and signposting parties to advice and information, to ensure
that cases are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.
Its response suggested that it was not clear what funds
would be used to resource a specialist housing court, nor was it clear that a
sufficient number of housing courts would be made available and accessible
The Law Society said: “The case for a housing court has not been properly put
and further evidence is needed as to why improvements within the current system
will not suffice. Some private landlords do not understand the complexities of
their case and are often reluctant to pay for legal advice. Such advice would
ensure they understand the defences and counter-claims available to
tenants, as well as the built-in safeguards within the legal process. However,
without this knowledge, landlords often complain about perceived ‘delays’.”
delays that exist around listings, orders, warrants and enforcements are
“fundamentally due” to insufficient court staff, court closures and
insufficient judicial time. The Law Society said that “extreme difficulties”
remain in getting information from the court over the phone, and the Government
would be better advised to look at how courts are coping with housing cases.
support for court users should include a duty adviser for tenants, guidance for
litigants in person (LiPs) and checklists for what they could expect at court,
increase in the number of LiPs has led to delays in the process, due to a lack
of understanding and preparedness, with housing advice deserts created in some
areas, where there are not enough solicitors.
another response to the consultation, the Civil Justice Council (CJC) said that
money would be better spent elsewhere, rather than on a court designed to
provide a single path of redress for landlords and tenants.
there was a need for judges to be more specialist, then the CJC believes that
this could be resolved by a system of ticketing judges to deal with housing
issues, as happens in family cases.
Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire MP, has said that the housing court
would help landlords and tenants access justice when they need it, and create a
fairer housing market.
was also announced recently that landlords will be required to become a part of a specialist redress scheme, or face fines