County Courts are failing on possessions cases

Propertymark has responded to the House of Commons Justice Committee Inquiry seeking evidence on the work of County Courts, focusing on how the process works for disputes involving private rented sector (PRS) housing. We have called out unacceptable delays in access to justice, reiterated our call for dedicated housing courts and pushed for detail on plans for digitisation.

Gavel housing court law.jpg

Seven month wait to regain property

There are long-standing concerns about the capacity and capability of the Courts, with the time from claim to hearing continuing to rise. The average wait time for a warrent to be issued in a PRS possession claim is around 29 weeks, although in London this can sometimes be as high as 40 weeks. 

According to data from HM Courts and Tribunal Service there were 7,301 possession claims made by private landlords in England and Wales in the second quarter of 2023. This represents a 16% rise from the same quarter of 2019 (pre-pandemic).

Increased legislation, through the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and the prospect of significant chance under the Renters (Reform) Bill, and the consequences of Section 24 of the Finance Act 2015, which removed the ability to deduct costs such as mortgage interest and arrangement fees from rental income before calculating tax liability, may have influenced this increase as more landlords make the decision to leave the sector.

Children's letter blocks spelling out the word rent with hand holding a house block
23 Oct 2023
Abolition of Section 21 to take place after substantial court reforms occur

A dedicated court would simplify claims

Propertymark urges the UK Government to introduce specialist housing courts with expert Judges who can expedite cases and create a consistent standard of judgments.This would reduce the pressure on County Courts, improve access for both landlords and tenants, and speed up the processing of claims.

Research on the current system from Citizens Advice found just 23% of tenants feel confident applying to court. 54% said they did not take a claim to court because of the complexity of the process and a similar number (45%) said they were put off by the length of time involved.

Legal gavel and scales.jpg
25 Jan 2019
Considering the Case for a Housing Court

Cut costs with digital solutions

As a matter of urgency, the UK Government must outline how they will use technology to improve the court system for landlords, their agents, and tenants. This must include details about how they will digitalise more of the court process to make it simpler and easier for possession cases to be processed.

The fees schedule is a particularly complex area that should be a priority for digitalisation. Fees for landlords and agents increased in 2021, with a warrant of possession rising to £130 from £121. However, where digital processes are already used - for example possession orders for accelerated claims and possession hearings - fees have remained static, demonstrating the efficiencies that can be achieved.

Download the full consultation response