What benefits will a new Housing Court bring?
By Alex Timperley, 14 November 2018
One of the most confusing and inconvenient aspects of the rental market is that it is often not clear where either a landlord or a tenant should go when seeking arbitration in case of conflict. This state of affairs is particularly worrying in the cases of the most vulnerable people who are often deterred by the various different legal paths currently available.
In its most recent manifesto the government promised to amend this by creating a Housing Court to act as a “single path of redress in property cases” and streamline the whole process.
The measure was announced by James Brokenshire, the secretary of state at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who said: “This is particularly important for families and vulnerable tenants who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move, or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home. It is also important for landlords who, in a minority of cases, struggle to get their property back when they have reason to do so.
“Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home, and this government is bringing about real change in making renting more secure. This is particularly important for families and vulnerable tenants who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move, or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home. It is also important for landlords who, in a minority of cases, struggle to get their property back when they have reason to do so.”
This is particularly interesting when you consider the government’s recent push for landlords to offer longer term, three year tenancies. There has been some debate over whether tenants will want to sign up to these given that they would limit flexibility, but perhaps people would be more keen to tie themselves in for the longer term if they were offered more certainty that issues could be dealt with promptly and effectively. Likewise, this should also provide greater confidence to landlords for similar reasons.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) welcomed the move, with policy director David Smith saying: “The RLA called for a new housing court at the time of the last election and in its Budget submission. It therefore welcomes this important consultation.
“Improving and speeding up access to justice in this way would be good news for landlords and tenants. It will help root out criminal landlords more quickly, give tenants better ability to enforce rights granted by new legislation on property fitness, and give greater confidence to landlords to offer longer tenancies.”
It is encouraging that government focus remains on the rental market. As more and more people decide to continue renting in the long term it is well past time that serious consideration is given to improving a sector which often seemed to be regarded as something of an afterthought in years gone by. We can hope that more measures like the proposed introduction of a Housing Court will continue to arrive and that the renting sector will keep getting better and better.
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