North West landlords most likely to see disputes end up in court

We recently revealed the UK’s possession order hotspots, with landlords in Manchester, St Helens, Liverpool and Birkenhead most likely to see disputes ending up in court.

The London boroughs of Croydon and Central London, followed by Stratford, Bromley, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch make up the top 10.

Landlords in Wakefield, Wigan, York and Stoke-on-Trent saw very few cases brought to court, whether steering clear of problem tenants or finding successful resolution outside of the courtroom.

To compile our research, we used the most recent Ministry of Justice figures, assessing the number of cases heard in the UK’s top 20 county courts.

The Section 8 form to evict a problem tenant can be served by the landlord but must be completed correctly to avoid unnecessary delays. The date on which the notice expires should be stated clearly, which is the date by which rent arrears must be paid, or the property must be vacated by. By our estimations, in 60% of cases the tenant does leave or pay before this date. When the tenant refuses, the landlord can start possession order proceedings.

These figures are based on cases heard in court, however there will be many more in the system still waiting to be resolved. Our team has seen delays of up to 10 months while waiting for a possession order to be granted, which presents huge issues for landlords, particularly since the problems that landed the case in court will be worsening, not to mention the stress and additional expense for the landlord. We have seen the number of possession orders rise year-on-year – and now the government has announced that Section 21 is to be abolished –  we’ll undoubtedly see more cases coming to court, adding further pressure to an already overstretched system.

Landlords in Manchester may be surprised to see the city top the list, however if we were to combine the figures listed separately for each London borough and treat the capital as a whole, as you’d expect, London would lead. Nevertheless, it appears that landlords in the North West are seeing proportionately more cases coming to court than their peers across the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, we are still finding that landlords are failing to act quickly enough when dealing with unpaid rent, in particular. Generally, issues like criminal activity, anti-social behaviour or damage within the property elicit a speedier response from landlords, but arrears are usually the first ‘red flag’, before leading onto other issues. Taking swift action significantly increases the chances of finding a positive resolution, keeping disputes out of court.

It isn’t unusual for landlords to be accused of harassment – with a variety of allegations relating to that – when cases reach court, which delays matters further. Landlords should take advice on communicating with tenants appropriately throughout disputes, preferably with a letting agent or other representative managing matters on their behalf. Although usually without merit, the allegations can push things down the line for months, so it’s something landlords need to be aware of.

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