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Urgent action needed on ‘dysfunctional’ courts

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There was a continued fall in landlord possession claims between April 2020 and March 2021, the National Residential Landlords Association has reported.

Its latest research report, The Wait of Justice 2021: how Covid legislation affected possession, shows that possession claims dropped significantly during the court closures.  Landlords made 22,700 claims in the year to March 2021, 80 per cent fewer than in 2019. In fact the total number of possession claims in the year to March 2021 was fewer than in any three-month period prior to April 2020.

‘These figures suggest that, throughout the pandemic, tenants and landlords have continued to adopt a collaborative approach to the challenges both groups have faced by sustaining tenancies wherever possible’, said NRLA. ‘Likewise, this research reveals the extent of landlords’ cooperation with Government guidance issued over the course of the past year’.

The findings also demonstrate that court waiting times must be reduced if further disruption is to be avoided in the post-Covid private rented sector. In the first quarter of 2019 the mean average waiting time for a landlord possession order was around seven to ten weeks. By the first quarter of 2021 this had increased to between 15 and 18 weeks.

‘In our view this problem can best be solved by either adapting or ending the administrative reforms introduced during the pandemic, so that the typical waiting period for a substantive hearing is decreased’.

While the findings show how landlords and tenants have responded with ‘admirable resolve in the face of unprecedented challenges’, they also reveal a dysfunctionality at the heart of the court system across England and Wales, said NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle.

‘We also call on courts across England and Wales to urgently address disruption which only serves to impede the creation of a private rented sector which works in the interests of all’.