Landlords are losing thousands as court delays become criticalMake Text Bigger
Under-resourced county courts are exasperated by the number of possession claims being put forward, resulting in costly delays for landlords. It has become such a problem in the last three months, that chasing up cases with the courts is now a full-time role for one member of our in-house legal team.
The vast majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county courts and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, Government spending cuts, an ever growing number of possession cases (predicted by us to be up 15% on last year) and the enforcement by some courts that bailiffs must no longer act alone, only in pairs, have combined to create serious delays in the eviction process.
We are forever chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues or bailiff appointments. By the courts’ own admission, cases are getting overlooked, administrative errors are being made and there are simply not enough bailiffs to support the number of cases, leading to long delays.
This is having serious implications for landlords who are not only losing thousands of pounds in unpaid rent but racking up more legal costs the longer a case goes on. Some landlords, who are unable to meet mortgage payments as a result, even face possible repossession, in addition to the added risk of their property being left uninhabitable by current tenants, where communication has broken down.
One Landlord, Mr Waller, has had severe delays with his case as a result of the courts losing his claim, twice. We finally obtained a hearing date, which took place on 24th November. Mr Waller said: “Our eviction case has been delayed for almost a year due to severe maladministration by the courts; files were repeatedly lost and the inefficiency we and Landlord Action encountered was astounding. This has been a deeply frustrating experience for us as landlords, but an even more harrowing one for our tenant who desperately wants to be rehoused by the council and needs a court order. We’re in an impossible catch 22 situation, which only the courts can resolve. The negligence and insouciance of certain individuals are quite literally destroying people’s lives.”
Another common frustration is when a possession order has been granted and a bailiff appointment confirmed, but the tenant makes a last minute application because they have nowhere else to go. The standard procedure is that a hearing has to be considered by a judge. We recently learnt that many of these applications don’t even reach a judge, who would have the authority to strike out an application based on the information already provided. Instead, the knee jerk reaction of court staff is to set down a hearing date, in which everyone is dragged to court, only for a judge to pass that the application has no merit.”
This flaw in the system can delay the whole process by as much as 2-3 months. We are currently acting on a case where this has happened, and rather than the landlord having his property back by the end of November, there is now a hearing in January 2015.
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