Landlords are calling for establishment of a properly funded and dedicated housing court to speed up the backlog of cases.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that the average time for a private landlord to make a claim to the courts to repossess a property in the first quarter of the year was 17.3 weeks - one week longer than the final quarter of 2018.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, says: “The courts are simply unable to cope when landlords seek to repossess property for legitimate reasons.”
The RLA says that court processes need to be fixed to ensure landlords do not become frustrated when wanting to reclaim their property in the face of tenants failing to pay their rents or committing anti-social behaviour.
The figures come after the government’s decision to scrap Section 21 repossessions, the legal process landlords can use to evict tenants without having to give a reason.
Landlords can use a Section 21 notice to evict tenants after a fixed-term tenancy ends and if there’s a written contract or during a tenancy with no fixed end date - known as a periodic tenancy.
Tenants who made a formal complaint had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice in the following six months, according to research from Citizens Advice.
It has also found that revenge evictions have affected 141,000 tenants since laws attempting to ban them were introduced in 2015.
Mr Smith adds: “Before seeking to scrap Section 21 repossessions, ministers urgently need to give confidence to landlords and tenants that the courts will first be substantially improved to speed up access to justice. That means establishing a full and proper housing court.”
The RLA is currently consulting the landlord community on how to ensure the process for repossessing properties can be improved.
Tenant fees bill
The amount landlords and letting agents can charge for deposits is also set to change from 1 June with the introduction of the Tenant Fees Bill.
The new law aims to crack down on lettings agents charging rip off rates to renters.
It will ensure that security deposits are capped at five weeks’ rent and holding deposits at one week.
Other measures will include limiting fees for replacement keys and late rent payments.
Figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors show that tenant demand is rising while the number of new landlords entering the market is dwindling.
This extends a run of successive quarterly declines dating back to the middle of 2016. This is already the longest uninterrupted sequence of falling landlord instructions since records began in 1998.
Surveyors have suggested that that the upcoming lettings fee ban and the proposed abolishment of Section 21 could lead to more landlords exiting the market.
Tamara Hooper, RICS policy manager, says: “RICS does not believe that the current proposed changes around Section 21 will help bring about the changes within the industry that the government hopes, without significant and sweeping changes to the overall process including the courts.”