Definite need for a Housing Court

by Readers Question

10:20 AM, 5th December 2018
About A week ago

Definite need for a Housing Court

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Definite need for a Housing Court

Fergus Wilson: “The following is an extract from a letter from my MP, Helen Whately, dated 16th November, 2018, followed by response dated 29th November 2018″

The extracts read:

I wrote to the Rt Hon David Gauke MP, the Lord Chancellor, about the way in which disrepair cases are heard in the courts and will let you know when I have had a response.

Can I ask you to ensure The Lord Chancellor has the full picture?  The situation is that if a Local Authority issues a Housing Act 2004 Notice the matter will be heard in the 1st Tier Property Tribunal where at least one of the Tribunal Members will be an “Expert Witness”. The Chairman will be a “Property Solicitor or Barrister” and the third a Lay Member.

That is absolutely fine and the case will probably be heard far earlier than it would be in the County Court.

What so often happens is that the Landlord will bring a claim for Non Payment of Rent. Now there is No Defence to not paying the rent, but the tenant will be encouraged to bring a Counterclaim which is spurious in nature and usually relates to an allegation of a non-working boiler.

In order to adjudicate on such a claim the Judge needs to hear evidence from an Expert Witness! What is meant by an Expert Witness?

It is defined as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors who is on the Expert Witness List.

These Counterclaims against a Non Payment of Rent Claim Case invariably have no Expert Witness.

If the Landlord is lucky then he will have a Deputy District Judge who is a Property Solicitor who is extremely knowledgeable about Boilers. However, most of the time the Landlord will end up with someone who starts by saying “I know nothing about Boilers…”

 

The Landlord is then in considerable trouble!

Please point out to the Lord Chancellor that that there is such an animal as the 1st Tier Property Chamber and any Counterclaim for a Boiler Disrepair, or Condensation, or whatever should be heard in the 1st Tier Property Chamber in the first instance and that Chamber is considered the Court of First Instance.

The HHSRS should be used (Hazard Health and Safety Rating System) and the case should be heard under the provisions of the Housing Act 2004 and not the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which is for Polluting the Environment not Domestic Boiler disrepairs.

I now turn to the time it takes to obtain possession which Kevin Hollinrake MP says is 22 weeks on average! I have had one taking 30 weeks.

The whole idea was an Accelerated Possession Procedure without a hearing! It has become a joke! There is absolutely nothing accelerated about it!

There is a most definite need for a Housing Court to deal with all Housing Matters! Particularly I single out Applications for Possession under the Accelerated Possession Procedure.

The First Tier Property Chamber sits in County Court Courts these days and there is plenty of surplus accommodation, as so many courtrooms stand empty, as the County Court cannot find Judges!

So what am I saying? In essence the Property Tribunal with its Members should run side by side with the County Court Judges, listed in the same building, and all housing matters should be dealt with by the Tribunal which is Chaired by a District Judge who can deal with Possession Applications.

The whole idea is this. If the paperwork is in order then the District Judge has to make a 14 day Possession Order. Within that 14 day period the tenant can apply for a hardship hearing but if it does not succeed possession can be applied for on the 15th day.

Whether the Landlord uses a High Court Sheriff to obtain possession is a matter for the Landlord.



Comments

Mike T

22:53 PM, 6th December 2018
About A week ago

My recent experience with County Court and C.C Judges: Last year I gave tenants 3 months notice to terminate the tenancy (section 21) due to the mortgage term coming to it's end and that the house would have to be sold. The tenants started to look for alternative accommodation but could not find anything they could afford. The local authority (housing dept.) were not helpful. Shelter gave advice : 'Stay put until evicted' So, at the end of the notice period I had no option but to seek a repossession order. This the C.C granted. However the tenants appealed and got a postponement of 3 weeks. They failed to move out on the revised court odered date . Eviction by C.C bailiff was requested and eventually set for some 5 weeks later !
With the tenants now gone I sought to get the recover the rent arrears, incurred during the previous 5 months, of some £1,800 . The tenant had always paid on time in previous years and had said he would bring payments up to date as soon as he could after moving out - but of course he didn't.
The tents admitted the arrears in their defence statement to the court and offered to pay £15 per month. I rejected this on the grounds that now that they had moved into social housing accommodation and given the court details of their income and expenditure which now showed that ALL their rent was met by the housing Benefit they were now £60 month better off, furthermore at the rate they wanted to pay I would be in my late 80's before the debt was paid. So I suggested that this figure would be more appropriate .
Having admitted the amount owing they added that the withheld the rent as they felt that they had added value to my property. HOW ? By having a new boiler fitted under the 'green deal' where anyone in receipt of child benefit (that they got) qualified for one F.O.C. Total cost to Tenant = £ ZERO . Total cost to landlord (me) £560 for extra costs for pipework and flue alterations etc.
How they could think that they had added value is beyond me particularly as the boiler was installed some 5 years ago !
The Judge dismissed the case stating that the arrears of £1,800 "would be waived in return for the new boiler" ..................What ?
So my view, after the 7 months it took to get the tenants out plus the waste of time pursuing justice, on the likes of Shelter, local authorities, County Courts and C.C Judges..... well words fail me.
Time indeed for a better, speedier & fairer system.


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