Housing secretary James Brokenshire has unveiled proposals for the creation of a new court to deal with disputes between landlords and tenants.
The move is the central idea of a new consultation launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, as part of a £1bn reform programme of the justice system that is designed to streamline court processes.
It comes in a week that the department is also celebrating a rise in housing delivery, detailed by MHCLG’s latest year-on-year figures for the supply of homes. However the 2.2% increase in supply represents a small step towards the government’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year in the next decade.
The consultation document on creating a dedicated Housing Court said the move had been proposed by some members of the judiciary as a way to make it easier for individuals to reduce delays and secure justice.
Currently housing cases are heard in a variety of settings – ranging from the First Tier Tribunal’s Property Chamber to county courts.
Launching the consultation, which runs until 22 January 2019, Brokenshire said everyone deserved to live in a safe and decent home and that the simplification of legal routes of redress for tenants and property owners could make renting more secure.
“This is particularly important for families and vulnerable tenants who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move, or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home,” he said.
“It is also important for landlords who, in a minority of cases, struggle to get their property back when they have reason to do so.”
Other proposals in the consultation include reducing the need for multiple hearings in different courts and issuing new guidance to help tenants and landlords navigate their way through the legal system.
Separately, the latest annual statistics on housing supply today showed that the delivery of new homes in England increased by 2.2% in 2017-18, compared with the year before.
Favoured by ministers because they typically give the highest numbers, the “net additional dwellings” statistics bring together the number of new-build homes, conversions of single homes into flats, and changes of use such as the conversion of office into homes. The figures also include other types of dwellings, such as houseboats.
According to the latest figures, there were 222,190 net additions to England’s housing stock over the past year, up from 217,345 the year before.
MHCLG said the increase resulted from 195,290 new build homes, 29,720 gains from change of use between non-domestic and residential, 4,550 conversions between houses and flats, and 680 other gains – with the figure offset by 8,050 demolitions.
Brokenshire said the figures were “great news” but added that the government was determined to do more to further increase housing supply.
“That’s why we have set out an ambitious package of measures to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s,” he said.
“This includes over £44bn investment, rewriting the planning rules and scrapping the borrowing cap so councils can deliver a new generation of council housing.”