Election 2024 – Something needs to be done about the Courts

Court HouseOur courts are in a shocking state.

All government departments have suffered cuts during Austerity. However, while the NHS and schools were spared the worst, the Justice Department suffered the full blast.

It is estimated that the Justice Department budget has declined by some 22% in real terms since 2009/10.

After all, who cares about the courts and lawyers? It’s only when you have personal experience with the court system that you realise how important it is and how important it is for society that it functions properly.

Landlords, tenants and the courts

For landlords and tenants, probably the most common reason they will experience the court system is eviction proceedings.

The most popular eviction route for landlords is the Section 21 procedure and the so-called’ accelerated procedure. So called because it is not actually that quick!

The advantage of the accelerated procedure, though (which can only be used for section 21 claims), is that it is paper-based. Meaning that no court hearing is needed (for the most part) thus saving court time.

All parties have committed to abolishing section 21, so this is going to happen. The question is when will it happen, and what effect will this have?

However, unless action is taken to reform the system, the abolition of section 21 will result in increased delays at court.  As cases which were previously dealt with on a paper only basis will require a court hearing before a Judge.

Delays with rent arrears claims

Probably the most common reason why landlords evict is rent arrears. Many of those landlords will actually use the Section 21 process at the moment as it is cheaper and quicker. And does not require a hearing.

The section 8 rent arrears ground is perceived as being more difficult to bring and more vulnerable to ‘trivial’ tenant defences. This can happen, although when I did eviction work, I brought many Section 8 rent arrears claims with no real difficulty.

The problem, though, is that if Section 21 is abolished, this will result in more court hearings, which will lead to more delays.

Landlords going bust?

Now, tenants and tenant organisations might be pleased at the prospect of eviction delays. However many landlords cannot afford to maintain their property and pay their mortgage if they are not receiving rent.

Unlike common perceptions about landlords, many are not particularly wealthy. For example some are pensioners who invested in a buy-to-let instead of a traditional pension.

It is not going to do the tenants any good if they are evicted by the landlord’s mortgage company because the landlord has defaulted on their mortgage payments.

There is also the fact that it is unfair for tenants to live rent-free at their landlords’ expense. Is it really that different from shoplifting or doing a ‘runner’ after eating a meal at a restaurant?

And finally

The Tories’ decision to delay the abolition of section 21 until after court reforms have taken place was not just down to landlord Tories protecting their own.

It is really important.

For example, another significant reason why landlords evict is anti-social behavour. The main sufferers here are other tenants and neighbours rather than the landlord and delays in eviction will cause them huge distress.

The problem is not limited to housing cases. Other types of litigation, such as family work, are also struggling due to court delays.

So, whoever wins the election, I would urge them to do something about our broken court system.

It is to be hoped that if Labour wins, Sir Keir, as a barrister, will understand this and take action.

The post Election 2024 – Something needs to be done about the Courts appeared first on The Landlord Law Blog.

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