The UK Government is being urged to follow Scotland’s lead as it considers introducing a specialist Housing Court to deal with tenant and landlord disputes.
The Ministry of Housing has put out a Call for Evidence, closing tomorrow, that argues that the current process can be time consuming for landlords when trying to repossess a property, while tenants can find the process confusing when making or defending a claim against their landlord.
The document seeks views on bringing all housing issues into a Housing Court or whether there should be a clearer delineation of what a county court and the property tribunals cover.
But Martin Partington, chairman of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), said similar changes made in Scotland last year show a dedicated court can increase cases and expose unlawful behaviour from landlords.
In Scotland, a deposit must be protected within 30 working days from the start of the lease, and until January of 2018, tenants needed to raise a claim for non-protection in the local Sheriff Court.
However, since January 2018 all deposit-related cases are now heard by the Scottish First-tier Tribunal along with other housing cases that used to be heard in the Sheriff Court.
The introduction of a specialist and free-to-access tribunal in Scotland has led to an increase in the number of deposit protection cases from a handful to 91 cases having been decided since January 2018, Partington said.
Of the 91 cases heard by the Scottish First-tier Tribunal (FTT) this year on deposits, 88 involved landlords and three involved agents.
A total of 19 cases were dismissed during 2018 and the remaining 72 resulted in £45,974 of penalties.
Most of the cases related to landlords not protecting deposits at all or in some cases late.
Partington said: “The sheer volume of cases in the Scottish example demonstrates that there’s an appetite for a specialist Housing Court that includes tenancy deposit matters.
“If we extrapolate the Scottish figure for the size of the English private rental market, the same system could potentially see around 1,200 cases a year coming into the specialist Housing Court that is proposed.
“The First-tier Tribunal system in Scotland has undoubtedly encouraged tenants to ensure that their deposits are protected and provided a straightforward, clear and importantly free method to seek recourse.”
The consultation closes tomorrow (January 22).