NRLA talks to Master of the Rolls on court reform
NRLA CEO Ben Beadle has spoken to the leaders of the justice system to discuss vital reforms; essential if landlords are to have faith in the courts in a post-section 21 world.
Ben met with the office of the Master of the Rolls – the head of Civil Justice in England and Wales – and senior Judiciary as part of his position on the possession user group, to explain what landlords need a reformed courts system to look like, and how to get there.
The Government has confirmed reform of the courts will take place before the loss of section 21, proposals being brought forward as part of its Renters (Reform) Bill, currently making its way through Parliament.
Issues within the courts are well documented – you can read the NRLA’s deep dive into the issue here – with it currently taking more than six months for landlords to regain possession of their properties.
A broken system
During the meeting Ben explained the main issue landlords have with the current court system is that it is far too slow, even with accelerated possession claims being relatively easy to process.
He said speeding up waiting times is essential, and the courts must be properly resourced if this is to happen – not least due to the inevitable increase in ‘ground-based’ possession cases once Section 21 is axed.
And while the NRLA has welcomed the Government’s pledge to halve the time between a private landlord serving notice because of a tenant’s anti-social behaviour and an eviction, it is concerned about the lack of detail as to how this will happen.
During discussions, Ben stressed issues with the courts aren’t just causing problems for landlords; the current system isn’t working for tenants either, with data from Citizen’s Advice showing only 23% of tenants are confident about applying to court to seek redress.
Additionally 99% of tenants who experienced unreasonably long repair times said they hadn’t bothered to make a claim to the courts, citing the complex process and lengthy wait times as reasons why.
The way forward
Ben outlined clear, workable proposals which he believes will help the Government tackle the backlog and create a system that works for landlords and tenants. These include:
- Boosting staff numbers in the courts service
- Ensuring more cases are heard online
- Setting clear timelines for each stage of the possession process – and sticking to them
- Developing a clear plan to fast-track cases of serious arrears and anti-social behaviour
He also called for better access to legal advice for tenants, to ensure they are supported and the process is fair to all involved and, in the interests of transparency, for the Government to publish the result of its Justice Impact Test, which measures the impact of the Bill on the justice system
Ben said: “It was a really productive meeting with those right at the coalface when it comes to court reform. I took the opportunity to outline the simple changes landlords need to see to ensure they retain confidence that the reformed system will be fair, robust and timely when it comes to processing possession claims.
“I also stressed how vitally important it is that court users are consulted regarding change and digitisation of the court process, what these changes will look like for landlords and tenants and – the 64-thousand-dollar question – how much it can speed things up.
“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government and those within the justice system to ensure the coming reforms are both fair and workable for landlords and tenants alike.”