Is the Jury Out over Court Closures?

By: Colin Campbell

The ramifications of last month’s governmental spending revue is currently being digested over the breakfast tables of landlords up and down the country. Closer analysis suggests that, as always, ‘the devil is in the detail’. Regular readers of the Legal 4 Landlords tri-weekly blogs will know that the Private Rental Sector will benefit from an influx of tenants from the social housing sector as a direct result of the coalition governments housing policies.

The post-election coalition manifesto has prioritised a reduction in the national deficit, which will have a knock –on effect for services provided by the state. Landlords should therefore be aware that some silver linings have a cloud. The Ministry of Justice provided one of the first consultation reviews published by the coalition back in August.

In this document, the Ministry set out proposals for the closure of 103 magistrates and 54 county courts throughout England and Wales. This action would save the national purse a figure in the region of £15.3 million per year in running costs and a further £21.5 million on maintenance. By ‘slimming down’ the service, other justice agencies would also make savings by focusing their attendance on single accessible locations within communities.

The reaction to these proposals from within the residential landlord sector has been one of rejection and dismay. The Residential Landlords Association has set up an online petition against the proposals and it is encouraging members of its association to lobby the Ministry of Justice to reconsider any closure of courtrooms.

Residential landlords are one of the few industries that simply cannot function without a prompt and efficient justice system. Landlords rely on the court system on a daily basis. Quite simply it is unlawful for residential landlords to take possession of premises without a court order due to provisions under the Protection of Eviction Act 1977 and the Housing Acts 1988/1996. ‘Severe sanctions’ will be visited upon any landlord found to be in breach of those requirements.

Sim Sekhon, spokesman for legal eagles ‘Legal 4 Landlords’ said:

“This is another barrier that will impede landlords and deter new investment into the sector.  Landlords are evidently concerned what these closures will cost them in loss of revenue when faced with defaulting tenants.”

It is not difficult to imagine the scenario of a landlord seeking the eviction of a tenant for rent arrears becoming in effect an involuntary provider of accommodation. Though the tenant is in default, the landlord has to allow the tenant to remain in the property until court proceedings can take place. The financial implications on landlords are plain to see. If the capacity of court proceedings are reduced, waiting times increase and landlords will feel more than a pinch from loss income, as mortgage payments are due.

Many residential landlords don’t have the time or the finances to pursue lengthy eviction battles alone. Legal 4 Landlords have a dedicated professional team who provide the experience and know how to help. The Legal 4 Landlords Eviction Team issue court proceedings against your tenant, arrange the court date, arrange all your legal papers and go before the judge to obtain a possession order for regaining the property. This service also includes a Court Issue Fee.