Observations of the court process with regard to residential possession claims

I’m sure what I’m going to say will resonate with many involved in securing possession of rented property in the county courts of this great land. The courts are horrendously busy now – everywhere. However, there are exceptions. A landlord took his possession claim into a county court recently and 2 days later received a hearing date!!! How on earth did that happen!

A year ago, around Birmingham a bailiff was taking around 3-4 weeks. Today that figure seems closer to 15 weeks. London landlords seem to have experienced these delays for a considerable amount of time now. The High Court Enforcement Officers are busier than ever as they can usually secure possession in one or two weeks from the expiry of the court order if approved.

I know that the courts are extremely busy and judges vary, but there can be a lack of consistency at times. We recently had a judge from a family law background who presided over a case that was a typical expired s21. Nothing out of the ordinary except that the tenant was a single parent with four children, so not likely to be intentionally homeless (due to reason for the proceedings). Council had a clear duty and yet outcome was possession in 56 days! Despite our solicitor arguing that 56 days could not be given (as 42 days is the maximum as far as the law was concerned) our family law judge was having none of it.

Despite having all your ducks lined up and taking a belt-and-braces approach, you still need to expect the unexpected. There are so called experts out there in the property profession that will tell you that there is no competence or skill in securing possession of a residential property, they may even have successfully done a few of their own. However, a lot can go wrong at a hearing, and when it goes wrong you need to be able to think on your feet, or you are back to square one!

Did I mention how busy the courts are –yet I’ve heard about a number of court closures. Nobody seems to know what is going on, cases are transferred from one court to another, and sadly sometimes neither the claimant or defendant are aware. Ringing the courts can be difficult, and emailing doesn’t have the same effect as it’s more passive.

Whilst I’ve listed some of the problems I’ve recently experienced, the reality is that our court staff work really hard but often seem just under-resourced. I’ve got many examples of judges taking sensible and pragmatic views on cases that could easily have been adjourned to a later date.