Failing court system continuing to fuel excessive possession delays

Calls are mounting for systemic reform of the 'failing' court system as UK Landlords continue to face excessive delays in property possession proceedings.

Related topics:  Landlords,  Section 21,  courts
Property | Reporter
8th February 2024
Paul Shamplina 655
"It’s a system in crisis. The inefficiencies within the court system are causing undue hardship for landlords who simply wish to exercise their legal rights"
- Paul Shamplina - Landlord Action

Landlords across the United Kingdom are grappling with excessive delays in regaining possession of their properties due to inadequacies within the court system, finds Landlord Action.

These delays are exacerbating an already challenging situation for landlords, and with the imminent abolition of Section 21, the situation is set to worsen. One landlord, Dr Renée Hoenderkamp, filed an eviction notice in January 2023 because her tenant was not paying rent and had damaged her property. Thirteen months later she is still waiting for a bailiff appointment.

Many landlords are experiencing frustratingly long waits just to secure a court date, let alone obtain possession orders. Once possession is granted, further delays occur in receiving the crucial sealed court order necessary to proceed with bailiff eviction.

Bailiffs will not schedule an eviction appointment until landlords possess the sealed order, adding yet another layer of delay and frustration to an already protracted process.

Here is the timeline of Renée Hoenderkamp’s journey to reclaiming possession of her property, so far:

October 2022 - Served her tenant with a Section 21 but by January he had not left.

January 2023 - Filed the eviction notice with the court.

March 2023 – Heard back from the County Court with hearing date for June.

June 2023 – At the hearing, the tenant failed to show up. The court required the EPC certificate and tenant handbook which the tenant had, so court was adjourned for just 2 weeks for landlord to obtain these. It took 3 months to relist.

September 2023 – Second hearing, possession granted and tenant given 14 days to vacate. However, court did not send sealed court order until the following month. Tenant did not leave.

31 October 2023 – Sealed order finally received and landlord paid for bailiff order.

February 2024 – Landlord has still not received a bailiff appointment and the tenant remains in her property.

Paul Shamplina, (pictured) Founder of Landlord Action, said: "It's incredibly disheartening to see landlords facing such prolonged delays in regaining possession of their properties.

"It’s a system in crisis. The inefficiencies within the court system are causing undue hardship for landlords who simply wish to exercise their legal rights."

Furthermore, even after obtaining the necessary documentation, landlords are being met with additional setbacks as they are informed of unavailability in bailiff appointment slots for months ahead. This backlog in bailiff appointments adds insult to injury for landlords who have already endured extensive waiting periods within the court system.

TV host and celebrity doctor Renée Hoenderkamp said: “I never set out to be a landlord. I was helping my son out who needed to move quickly.

"However, I have always been very fair allowing the tenant to pay below market value rent, attending to any issues with the property and this is what I have received in return. The property is trashed and I can’t even get it back to start making the repairs.

"When I contacted the helpline, I was told by Willesden County Court that they can’t chase for a bailiff appointment until it has been 17 weeks. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Another example of this is illustrated by Clive Goodman, a landlord who shared his frustration.

Goodman remarked: "Despite paying £130 for the eviction and then sending in an EX97A risk assessment form that they asked for several weeks after the first form, I was then told that there were no bailiffs available in the Lambeth zone. They told me they 'might' be able to give me a date for a bailiff in three months."

The implications of these delays are severe, particularly for landlords who have tenants who have already stopped paying rent or are causing anti-social behaviour.

Shamplina adds: “It is important to point out that these are also not Section 21 no-fault evictions where perhaps the landlord wants to sell, they are Section 8 evictions which have been brought to court because the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and the judge has granted possession. Yet landlords are still being forced to wait months and months to get their properties back”

The imbalance between the rights of landlords and tenants is becoming increasingly apparent, with landlords bearing the brunt of administrative inefficiencies.

The impending abolition of Section 21, which provides landlords with a no-fault eviction option, is poised to exacerbate these issues further. Without adequate resources allocated to the court system, the backlog of possession cases is likely to escalate, leaving both landlords and tenants in limbo.

The Government must address these systemic issues promptly to ensure a fair and efficient resolution process for all parties involved.

Shamplina says: “Surely, it’s time for substantive reforms, including the option for landlords to employ High Court Enforcement Officers in cases of significant arrears exceeding six months, mitigating the backlog and ensuring a balanced, effective resolution mechanism for both landlords and tenants. Despite the severity of the situation, this is still not happening frequently enough.

He concludes: Landlords deserve a judicial system that operates with transparency, accountability, and timely efficiency, yet the current situation is the most dire we've encountered at Landlord Action.”

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