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The consultation as to whether a Housing Court would be helpful to landlords, or tenants, or both is still ongoing, but statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice show how much something to speed up the process of evicting transgressing tenants is needed. Could a Housing Court be the answer?
It is taking private landlords on average 5 months to re-gain possession of their properties when eviction is necessary. That could be 5 months without any rent being paid; 5 months of damage to the property (sometimes malicious, if they know they are to be evicted), 5 months of neighbours having to take abuse or suffer neighbour nuisance.
Kevin Hollinrake MP asked a question on this topic in the House and the Government answered that it took 22 weeks on average in 2017; previously it had been 16.1 weeks.
Though no landlord wants to hear of lengthy waits for eviction, those in the Southwest can be grateful that in their area, it takes only 18 weeks (a national low) as compared to 25 weeks in London. I don’t like to make a special case of London, but with the enormous demand for property and the very high rents paid there, nearly 6 months to get rid of an unwelcome tenant is particularly galling.
The subject of longer tenancies and moves to abolish the section 21, form 6A notice raises its’ head regularly; Shelter and the CAB have been adamant that 6-month tenancies give tenants little security, that children suffer because of it.
I have argued repeatedly that this is not the case nationwide, that landlords want long-term tenants and are happy for them to stay for lengthy periods – in conversation only last night with landlords, one volunteered the information that he has had a tenant for 12 years.
He has a gambling addiction which he controls – most of the time; but once or twice a year, he falls. Deeply sorry, a months’ rent is not paid. This could affect the landlord’s cash flow. It could be an irritant at the least, especially when this happens so regularly over the tenancy.
Does the landlord evict him, which he is perfectly able to do, using a section 21 notice? No, he doesn’t. Like many landlords, he treats his tenant with compassion. He allows him to pay something off each month until the debt is paid. But still the calls are made by those organisations working for tenants who do not look further into why the landlord has had enough.
The section 21 notice has always been popular with landlords. It does not require a reason to be given why the tenant should be evicted; this is also preferable for the tenant, who is therefore not marked down as a trouble-maker. Sadly, the requirement to prevent homelessness as much as possible has seen the emergence of homeless prevention officers. They now ring landlords, question them as to why this step is being taken and persuasion is used not to proceed with this step.
The landlord cannot win; if they take the legal, but without blame step of issuing a section 21, they are expected to explain themselves. If they use a mandatory ground because of rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, it can take 5 months, and sometimes more than that if it co-incides with Christmas or Easter. A quicker way must be found, possibly through a Housing Court.
If the Government want landlords to offer longer tenancies, they must tighten up the eviction process and make possession as smooth a process as possible, not the long-winded and limping procedure it has become. A Housing Court may be a step in the right direction.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon