Every landlord knows the difficulties of repossessing a property from a bad tenant, but the situation is worse than originally thought.
It’s now taking more than five months on average for landlords to regain possession of their properties, even where tenants have breached the terms of their lease.
The government’s official figures were that there was an average waiting time of 16.1 weeks in 2017, based on the median figures.
However, a question tabled by Hunters co-founder and now Conservative MP Kevin Hollirake asking for the median and mean times clarified the situation.
This demonstrated that the mean time – a more accurate representation – from claim to repossession of a property by a county court bailiff was in fact 22 weeks, or five and a half months.
There were considerable regional variations in how long it took to regain possession of a rental property.
The longest time in 2017 was in London, at 25 weeks, although this represented a drop from 29.5 weeks in 2016. The Midlands were 21.4, the North West 21.1, the North East 20.00 and the South East 20.5 weeks.
The South West represented the shortest waiting time, at 18.1 weeks, or four and a half months. However, encouragingly, in many areas, the times had fallen compared to 2016.
Unsurprisingly, these figures have raised real concerns for landlords.
With the government pushing for longer tenancies to become normal as they are in many parts of Europe, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has warned that this move will fail unless there are urgent court reforms that will enable landlords to gain repossession of a property in a much more timely fashion.
This is particularly important for landlords where tenants have failed to pay rent, are committing anti-social behaviour, or are damaging the property.
As a result of the long waiting times, the RLA has said that many landlords are now using Section 21 evictions, where no explanation for the ending the tenancy is required, to remove unwanted tenants, as the alternative options that require court applications take too long and the process is too cumbersome.
The RLA’s Perspective
The RLA is calling on the government to speed up justice for landlords in the private rented sector through the establishment of a properly funded housing court that will ensure more timely resolutions for landlords and tenants alike.
David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA, said: “These figures show that the court system is failing to secure justice for landlords and tenants when things go wrong.
“If Ministers want to roll out longer tenancies landlords need the confidence that in cases where they legitimately want to repossess a property the system will respond swiftly. It is not good for either tenants or landlords to be left in a prolonged period of legal limbo.
“We hope that the government will press ahead with a properly funded and fully fledged Housing Court.”
Plans for a housing court are currently out for consultation.