February 1st 2021 saw the government launch a mediation scheme which aims to ease the burden on the courts as part of the possession process. Meant as a way to promote a mutual agreement between landlords and tenants, and avoiding court proceedings, it has raised some serious concerns with The Law Society and the wider private landlord sector.
Robert Jenrick, the Government Housing Secretary, announced: “Helping to resolve disputes through mediation will enable courts to prioritise urgent cases, supporting landlords and tenants to resolve issues quickly, without the need for a formal hearing. The mediation pilot will work within the existing court arrangements in England and Wales”
In response, David Greene, the President of The Law Society said: “vulnerable and unrepresented tenants may feel pressured to undertake mediation and may be misrepresented, as mediators are not housing dispute specialists”
“The Law Society is particularly concerned that the pilot could impact on the sustainability of legal aid, particularly the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS), which provides an emergency solicitor on the day, to anyone facing eviction proceedings”
“The £3 million allocated to the pilot, would be more usefully channelled into the HPCDS and early legal advice, which ensures tenants have the access to justice and specialist legal advice, that can stop them being evicted.
“Despite calls from across the housing sector, to the Legal Aid Agency, and the Ministry of Justice, to ensure the continued availability of funded legal advice, investments have not been made”
There is not a good general feeling within the private rental sector to this new measure. For years the government have underfunded the court system; and the delays to cases that the lack of funds caused, have been amplified due to the pandemic and the government’s blanket response by halting all evictions. This action feels like they are putting a bandage onto the wrong injury.
The private landlord associations, express concern that they are now being bombarded with, who they may, or may not, offer a property to; being told to adhere to the dates of compliance in the middle of a pandemic, and being told whether to permit pets. The mediation process appears to be yet another action to manipulate the housing sector. When stripped down to basics, no good landlord gives notice to a good tenant without good reason, and the landlords point out there is already a mutual agreement – it is called a contract.