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Under resourced county courts in England are exasperated by the number of possession claims being put forward, resulting in costly delays for landlords, it is claimed. According to tenant eviction service Landlord Action it has become such a problem in the last three months that chasing up cases with the courts is now a full time role for one member of their in-house legal team. The vast majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county courts and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, government spending cuts, an ever growing number of possession cases which have increased around 15% on last year, are leading to overload. On top of this the firm points out that some courts are insisting that bailiffs must no longer act alone, only in pairs, and this has added to serious delays in the eviction process. ‘We are forever chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues or bailiff appointments. By the courts' own admission, cases are getting overlooked, administrative errors are being made and there are simply not enough bailiffs to support the number of cases, leading to long delays,’ said Julie Herbert, head of legal at Landlord Action. This is having serious implications for landlords who are not only losing thousands of pounds in unpaid rent but racking up more legal costs the longer a case goes on. Some landlords, who are unable to meet mortgage payments as a result, even face possible repossession, in addition to the added risk of their property being left uninhabitable by current tenants, where communication has broken down. One landlord, Mr Waller, has had severe delays with his case as a result of the courts losing his claim, twice. Landlord Action finally obtained a hearing date, which took place on 24 November. ‘Our eviction case has been delayed for almost a year due to severe maladministration by the courts. Files were repeatedly lost and the inefficiency we and Landlord Action encountered was astounding,’ said Waller. ‘This has been a deeply frustrating experience for us as landlords, but an even more harrowing one for our tenant who desperately wants to be rehoused by the council and needs a court order. We're in an impossible catch 22 situation, which only the courts can resolve. The negligence and insouciance of certain individuals are quite literally destroying people's lives,’ he added. Herbert of Landlord Action said another common frustration is when a possession order has been granted and a bailiff appointment confirmed, but the tenant makes a last minute application because they have nowhere else to go. ‘The standard procedure is that a hearing has to be considered by a judge. We recently learnt that many of these applications don't even reach a judge, who would have the authority to strike out an application based on the information already provided,’ she explained. ‘Instead, the knee jerk reaction of court staff is to set down a hearing date, in which everyone is dragged to court,… Continue reading →
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