Court delays costing landlords thousands in lost income

Court delays costing landlords thousands in lost income

Court delays costing landlords thousands in lost income

Landlords are having to wait up to eight weeks to enforce possession of their properties from non-paying tenants, according to a new report.

The result is thousands of pounds lost in unpaid rents and the risk of properties being trashed and left uninhabitable, further adding to the owners’ woes.

The research, by the specialist enforcement company Shergroup, highlighted serious delays between the time from a possession order being granted to the point that a court bailiff is available to evict the tenant.

High Wycombe, Huddersfield, Ilford, Leigh, Romford, Salford, Slough, Willesden and Woolwich County Courts all admitted delays of up to eight weeks and the problem could get worse as the full impact of the spending cuts is felt according to Shergroup Chief Executive, Claire Sandbrook:

“Court resources are being stretched*, and in the busiest courts they are no longer able to deliver an enforcement service that could in any way be considered ‘reasonable’,” she says. “And with budgets being cut by 25%, and the number of tenants falling into arrears likely to rise, the problem is only going to get worse.”

All [167] County Courts were surveyed and asked how soon a bailiff could be available to enforce an eviction. Timeframes varied depending on the size of the court, and the volume of cases they were obliged to handle. Some of the smaller courts, such as Aberdare, could respond within seven days; others could not give an answer at all, either because they didn’t know, or more likely that they didn’t want to commit to something they couldn’t deliver.

Claire says that part of the problem is that the courts are simply being overwhelmed, but that with no common IT platform, there is no mechanism from moving caseloads from busy courts to those with spare capacity, or make greater use of private sector High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs): “It seems inconceivable that in these days of shared services and public-to-private partnerships, that more isn’t being done to spread the load,” she says.

“Whilst money has been invested in getting to judgment more speedily, this is of little use if the creditor – in this case the landlord – still has to wait weeks and even months to have that judgment enforced.”

There are an estimated 60,000 possession orders granted each year, according to Shergroup, of which around 3,000 are passed to the private sector to collect. Private HCEOs charge more for their services than their public sector counterparts, but Claire says that waiting months for an enforcement that could be completed within days is a false economy:

“Many landlords are private individuals who depend on rental income to meet their own financial obligations,” she says. “Not only are they having to pay to take their tenants to court, but they are then losing vital rent while they wait for a bailiff to give them an eviction date.

“It is a postcode lottery,” she concludes, “that could be easily resolved if only the Ministry of Justice had the imagination to fundamentally overhaul the administrative process.”

Shergroup intends to publish a league table on its website on a regular basis.