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Big landlord group slams Gove over promised eviction court reforms

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The British Property Federation has voiced concerns about government assurances of court reform progress ahead of scrapping no-fault evictions.

Writing in Inside Housing, Ian Fletcher, director of policy (real estate), says myths have grown up around housing secretary Michael Gove’s pledge, such as that progress has been met because court processing times rose during the pandemic and are now back to normal levels.

“But it was never the case that court reform, as part of renters’ reform, merely entailed the restoration of ‘normal’, otherwise why call for reform?” says Fletcher.

Reform needed

“Reform is needed because ‘normal’ is a very poor service, and with landlords relying solely on court-approved repossessions, normal is all they have. The likelihood is that normal would get worse too, as the workload of the courts increases with the new system.”

A second myth is that there would be very few additional cases under the new system.

“Most tenants do not contest current possession claims, and so the argument goes they won’t under the new system, but at present, contesting a possession claim is relatively futile because landlords can rely on the no-faults ground,” he argues.

“When that is gone, it is unrealistic to expect that landlords and tenants’ behaviour will not change.”

Strengthened grounds for possession are only as good as access to the courts for a landlord seeking to exercise them, says Fletcher.

He adds that court digitalisation – a significant example of reform - would help improve case processing times, provide a far more customer-friendly service and help the system cope with greater volumes. However, although the government is committed to digitalisation for possession cases, it won’t provide any detail on how that project is progressing.

“The British Property Federation supports the Renters Reform Bill, but the government must deliver on its promise of court reform,” he adds.

More about section 21 'no fault' evictions ban.


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