Leading Tenant Eviction Law Firm, Landlord Action, says they have numerous cases where court delays and administrative errors mean evictions are taking longer than ever, pushing landlords into further debt. One case has taken nearly a year and the landlord is still no closer to gaining possession. Founder, Paul Shamplina, says investment in the court system is imperative before the government scraps Section 21.
In a recent Section 21 case handled by Landlord Action, a tenant claimed she did not receive the ‘How to Rent Guide’ so the court set a hearing date of 27th June. The day before, the court cancelled the hearing because the Judge was no longer available. A new hearing date was set for 8th July. At the hearing, the court listed the matter for a trial with a time estimate of two hours to decide the validity of the Section 21 notice.
Having not received any form of written confirmation from the court, Landlord Action repeatedly chased the court which finally confirmed the trial had been listed for 26th September. At the hearing, the court adjourned the matter again because the tenant said she needed more time to seek legal advice.
The court then relisted the hearing for 12th November, which was once again cancelled the day before as a result of not having any judges available to hear the matter. Landlord Action are now chasing for a new date but the original Section 21 Notice was served back in January 2019 and yet the landlord is no closer to gaining possession.
“We are experiencing cases like this time and time again” says Paul Shamplina. “It’s not only causing extra work for us at Landlord Action, meaning we now have a full-time member of staff whose main responsibility is chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues and bailiff appointments, it is also causing extreme stress for the landlords who are already facing financial hardship as a result of rent arrears.”
In another example, Landlord Action sent a Section 21 N5B claim to court and on 31st July, the court issued the claim and Landlord Action applied for the Possession Order. The Section 21 notice at this point was three and half months into its six-month lifespan. After constant emails and calls, but no response, a court clerk confirmed a backlog of two to three months’ work.
However, on 18th October an order was eventually received from court saying that the claim had been struck out as the notice was over six months old and invalid. After a lengthy witness statement to court requesting the matter to be restored, the Possession Order was granted – almost 5 months on from sending the Section 21 claim to court.
“The situation is the worst I have experienced in my 28 years in this industry. Cases are being overlooked, delayed or thrown out due to administrative errors and there is little we can do to improve matters for landlords when we are at the mercy of the courts. Remember, many courts were closed due to cost saving by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
The number of court cases will double once Section 21 is abolished as landlords will be forced to use Section 8, which require a court hearing. I do not believe the government have a thorough understanding of the implication that scrapping Section 21 will have on the courts, with all the extra administration, recruitment of more judges (which is extremely difficult) and more bailiffs required.
As I have said many times before, if we do not have a clear message from the MOJ that there will be sufficient investment in the court system, then landlords will lose confidence. Combined with all the other changes, some landlords will feel that the length of time to gain possession of their property is too great a risk, so may decide to sell up – we have already seen this at Landlord Action. There must be a call for evidence on the implementation of a Housing Court” says Paul Shamplina.