James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary has recently initiated a call for evidence as to whether a specialist housing court should be set up to take most housing cases (including possession proceedings) out of the county court jurisdiction.
This call for evidence will end on 22nd January 2019.
The idea of a separate housing court has been a Conservative party hobby horse for a while now with the Government suggesting that it could provide a single path of redress for landlords and tenants. The idea, it seems, is to have a low cost high expertise tribunal in which the need for lawyers to appear will be greatly reduced.
are some problems with this idea. If housing cases are taken away from the courts and placed in a tribunal the tenants will not have legal aid available to defend possession proceedings. If – as is likely to be the case the landlords are represented this will be very unfair - this could lead to terrible injustices and a great deal of harm being caused to vulnerable families.
If the model is the First Tier Tribunal then the idea that lawyers won’t be involved is fanciful.
of the complaints about the current system come from landlords complaining about the difficulty of recovering tenanted properties. A lot of these complaints are due to landlords making basic legal errors. The sort of errors that a lawyer could put straight at an early stage.
There seems also, to be something of a conflict in Government policy as well. On the one hand the procedural, environmental and legal requirements placed on landlords are increasing with the aim of ensuring greater fairness for tenants. On the other hand the Government contemplates a housing court which is likely to introduce a great deal of unfairness against tenants .
Fundamentally perhaps, the problem is that the underpinning idea is that housing law is simple law, and that lawyers are not needed. Housing law is not simple, the legislation is complex, the case law extensive and it all grows more complex each year.