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Streamlined and balanced eviction process needed

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Current court arrangements are no longer suitable for either tenants or landlords, said the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors in a position statement Plan for housing industry next steps: Medium to long term.

But any changes to private rented sector eviction processes must be done with strong engagement and involvement with industry, clear timelines and a proper review of all areas of the sector, so as to ensure any new processes are a balance between landlord and tenant needs, said the estate agents’ body.

RICS repeated its support for removal of the section 21 ‘no fault’ grounds for possession, ’but only when a viable alternative is established and embedded including significant reform to the court processes’, it said. ‘The Government has yet to publish or consult on a viable alternative’.

Only an alternative that includes thorough changes to the court processes can be seen as viable, it added. ‘Now, as we emerge from Covid, and with some changes already made, is the perfect time for Government to look at changes to how the courts hear and handle eviction proceedings.

‘Government must look to prioritise streamlining and simplifying the court processes for landlord’s wanting to repossess their properties under Schedule 2 and urgently release their response to the ‘Considering a Case for a Housing Court’, call for evidence which closed around 18 months ago.

‘RICS supports the creation of a new housing court as proposed by Government in the call for evidence, which would simplify and streamline the dispute resolution process. We welcome the transparency this would bring for tenants, landlords and leaseholders. We would also like to see Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) incorporated into a preliminary stage of adjudication, with the right to proceed to legal process.

‘A removal of section 8 without changes to the courts will result in unintended consequences that will disproportionately affect those most vulnerable within the PRS’.

And RICS warned that any changes to the law making it harder for landlords to gain possession of their properties would impact on investment in rented property – and this at a time that the Government is trying to encourage just such investment. Haphazard changes might well bring a halt to the growing phenomenon of mixed tenure and ‘build to rent’ housing developments.

‘The private rented sector plays a vital role in our housing market, having doubled in numbers of households in the last 20 years’, said RICS. ‘Government must look to long term solutions that ensures safety of tenure and home for tenants whilst not burdening or impacting landlords and those who invest into the industry’.

Private renting was one of three housing sector areas where medium and long-term interventions were needed, said the RICS paper. The others were planning and development, and home buying and selling, including home ownership.

On home ownership, it said it was time for the Government ‘to thoroughly assess their home ownership offerings such as Starter Homes, Help to Buy and shared ownership’ so as to ensure any new routes to ownership implemented are successful and actually ‘result in the intended outcome’.