Two legal experts have told MPs probing the Government’s plans to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault evictions’ that improving the crumbling courts system could take years.
Their comments follow the Government’s decision to delay abolishing Section 21 evictions until the courts are sorted out, a decision that has attracted criticism from housing campaigners but praise from the landlord sector.
But representatives from both the Law Society and the Law Centres Network have told the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Local Government Select Committee that waiting for the courts to improve will delay abolishing Section 21 evictions for up to three years.
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan from the Law Centres Network said that due to these delays, getting rid of ‘no fault’ evictions should take place first.
But Richad Miller (main picture) from The Law Society, echoing recent comments by the NRLA, said this would significantly increase the workload of the courts because more eviction cases would be contested by tenants, clogging up the courts further.
“There are some genuine concerns about the capacity of the system at the moment,” said Miller. “We are seeing significant backlogs within the courts.
“We expect that the provisions in [the Renters (Reform) Bill] will lead to a significant increase in the number of contested hearings, so there is substantial concern about the capacity of the system to handle the workload that will come with this change.
“There needs to be investment to increase capacity, and that also needs to extend to legal aid.
“Landlords’ solicitors, as much as tenants’ solicitors, have told us that they need tenants to be represented.
“Landlords do not want to be up against unrepresented parties in contested hearings: it is bad for the landlords, it is expensive for the landlords and it is expensive for the court, which has to put a lot more resources into dealing with litigants in person.”
The Government has said that its planned improvement to the courts are to include digitisation; prioritisation of certain cases; improving bailiff recruitment and retention; and providing early legal advice and better signposting.
But both Miller and Ben-Cnaan warned that the digitisation of evictions courts alone could take up to three years to complete, if a similar project still under way for family courts was anything to go by.