Calls grow to shake up 'archaic' evictions process

A radical shake-up of the 'archaic' county court eviction process is needed to help landlords and agents get rid of problem tenants, according to a lettings industry specialist.

Sim Sekhon, director of Legal 4 Landlords, is calling on both HM Court Service (HMCS) and the Government to reform the way tenant evictions are handled.

Sekhon said: "There is no consistency in the eviction process and it is archaically slow. It can take up to three months to gain a court eviction order.

"Judges seem to review cases on a random basis and opinions differ from judge to judge. There is confusion amongst judges and magistrates on the terms in which eviction notices can be granted."

David Absalom, a property expert with the Residential Landlords Association and who provides advice and training to landlords and agents, supports the call for change.

He said: "Some judges are poorly trained in eviction notices. Others are even playing the system. For example, when a tenant asks for extra time, the judge sets a hearing for six weeks' time - giving the troublesome tenant longer time in the property at the expense of the landlord.

"Even if the judge is in the wrong, landlords find it difficult to fight their case in court. Who is going to argue with a judge even if he is spouting erroneous law?"

Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord who has a shorthold tenancy agreement has a legal right to get their property back at the end of the tenancy using a section 21 notice. A section 8 notice is used where a tenant has broken part of their tenancy agreement. The most common reason is non-payment of rent, but there are 17 grounds for which a section 8 notice can be used.

The court will require that the landlord is able to show adequate evidence of the breach before it will award possession and /or a money judgment.

Legal 4 Landlords accused some judges of having 'an ill informed view' that the landlord or agent cannot enforce a section 8 notice until the section 21 has expired.

Sekhon said: "Around 5% of tenants we evict leave the property damaged and full of rubbish. We've entered properties with human excrement smeared over the walls, rooms littered with used needles and in one case a tenant had removed all the floorboards in the upstairs of the property and laid the carpet back down so the landlord fell through the floor, sustaining serious injuries.

"Speeding up the eviction process would limit the danger to both landlords and people in neighbouring properties."

This is not just a problem for private landlords - social housing landlords are also suffering from the slow court eviction process.

Irwell Valley, a housing association in Manchester, announced it took two months to gain a magistrates' eviction order for a problem tenant, by which time the house had been vandalised and stripped of anything of value.

Irwell Valley has also called on the Government to speed up the process and provide more powers to landlords to evict problem tenants.


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