Considering the case for a Housing Court

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published a call for evidence on the establishment of a dedicated Housing Court in England that will specialise in housing cases only.

24 January 2019

The Federation has responded in support of this proposal, highlighting the importance of it receiving the resources it needs to operate effectively. Further details are available below.

What is the proposed Housing Court?

At present, most housing cases in England are heard at first instance by the County Court, which is a general civil court hearing disputes in a wide range of areas in addition to housing.

Housing associations are familiar with the County Court because of its role in hearing housing cases, especially possession actions. In theory, it is a single court covering the whole of England and Wales but, in practice, the court sits at a range of different locations throughout the country.

Certain types of housing cases, particularly regarding leasehold issues and service charges, are dealt with by the First Tier Tribunal, which in 2013 took over the former role of the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal when the latter was abolished.

The Government is exploring the possibility of changing this approach, and instead having a nationwide Housing Court that will specialise in housing cases only.

What is the Federation’s view on a Housing Court?

We support calls for a dedicated Housing Court, because it:

  • recognises the importance of housing as an issue and the volume of legal business that it generates
  • helps ensure a consistently high standard of expertise on the bench
  • eliminates the current artificial distinction between the jurisdiction of the county court and the first-tier tribunal.

The establishment of a dedicated Court acknowledges that many housing cases require a substantial level of judicial expertise and the need to handle cases in a sensitive way that recognises that the home of a litigant and his or her family may be at stake.

What further recommendations have we made?

In addition to showing our support for a Housing Court, our response to the Government has highlighted some key recommendations on behalf of our members:

  • The Housing Court should absorb the current role of the First Tier Tribunal so that there is a single streamlined forum for housing-related cases.
  • The Housing Court should receive the resources it needs to operate effectively. Our members’ feedback concerning the existing County Court system stresses that it is underfunded, therefore it is important that any new system does not experience this as well.
  • The Housing Court should operate at many locations throughout the country so that parties to cases do not have to travel excessive distances.

Further information

If you’d like to read our full response, please email John Bryant, Policy Leader, on John.Bryant@housing.org.uk