In its response to the Civil Justice Council Property Working Group discussion paper, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has said that:
“A single housing court will allow all issues to be dealt with in one place. This will reduce confusion for landlords and tenants as well as hopefully speed up the administration of justice whilst reducing costs for all concerned including the public purse.”
The working group is currently exploring how to minimise the need for landlords, tenants or other property related litigants to go to more than one court or tribunal to settle a dispute.
ARLA is keen to see that landlords have access to “a swift, efficient and cost effective justice system.” It has bemoaned that there is an inconsistency nationally amongst judges in cases concerning warrants for possession and other matters “due to lack of knowledge in housing law.”
Aside of escalating a dispute by taking it to a court or tribunal, parties are able to utilise other forms of dispute resolution and these are also usually far quicker and cheaper. For example, some of the statutory deposit protection providers offer an adjudication scheme. Also, formal mediation is very effective with getting parties together to come up with a solution to resolve their problem.
I would like to see far more widespread use of mediation (using qualified, accredited and skilled mediators) to sort out lettings disputes as I have personal knowledge and experience of its success! It certainly is within the gift of reputable organisations such as ARLA, NALS, RICS and the UKLA to collectively strive towards achieving this without further relying on HMCTS; an institution which is already burgeoning at the seams.
Indeed, I found it interesting that ARLA wants to see “expert” judges (akin to arbitrators) being employed by the new courts to “get to the bottom of cases without the need to employ expensive solicitors or barrister.”
Do we really need yet another system where judgments are given and binding awards are imposed on parties? By empowering the parties to come up with a solution to their problem and thereby saving on time and costs there is also a higher probability of adherence to any settlement. Mediation certainly provides for this.