Court call-centres fuelling possession delays

Court call-centres fuelling possession delays.

Since reporting a year ago that under-resourced county courts were overwhelmed by the number of possession claims being put forward, Landlord Action says the problem has not improved and is now being compounded by the use of call centres run by inexperienced temporary staff.  They warn other practitioners “If you want an answer quickly, be prepared to chase.”

Twelve months ago, Landlord Action employed a full-time member of staff solely to follow up claims made to the courts. They wanted to ensure they continued providing clients with an efficient service, despite the challenges via third party delays. However, with further court closures, it now transpires that some county courts are operating call centres, where temporary staff, with little or no experience, have been appointed to process claims and correspondence.

In a recent routine phone call to follow up a case, an operator informed Julie Herbert, Head of Legal at Landlord Action, that there were just six people in one call centre dealing with calls and paperwork relating to 55 different courts. “It is evident that those at the call centre are not qualified to be able to differentiate between correspondence that can sit on a file, and correspondence that needs the urgent attention of a Judge in order for a case to progress. We have had numerous incidents where court staff appear to be opening post, filing it and doing little about it, adding to the problem even further” says Julie.

Landlord Action has expressed concern that more planned court closures and the introduction of the recent Deregulation Act, will likely see a surge in more defended, contentious cases clogging up the system and resulting in even longer delays.

Considering ways to improve the system, Julie Herbert adds “When correspondence is received by the court, it needs to be looked at by someone who is capable of deciding whether the item of correspondence requires any action. If they are going to close courts, they need to transfer some of those qualified members of staff to these call centres. Alternatively, train up more qualified staff so that they have a legal understanding of each item of correspondence which the court receives.  It can then be processed saving numerous calls from practitioners chasing them up”.

According to Ms Herbert, a high volume of tenants’ applications have no merit.  However, some applications are being processed by office staff, where hearings are being set down weeks after a possession order has been granted, causing further losses to landlords and putting a strain on court resources. “If judges actually got to see these applications in the first instance, decisions could be made on most without the need for a hearing” she says.

In the interim, Landlord Action’s advice to other practitioners who are waiting for a reply from the courts on anything, is to carry out regular chase up calls, even more so than normal.  “If told that it is in the system, push to know exactly when the file was or will be referred to a judge, as well as asking what timeframes are in place for when you can hear back from the court and take a name. It is important to follow up your conversation with the court by email, as this also provides evidence for you to show your client that you are being proactive” concludes Julie Herbert.

Precise Treatment Reduces Pain

Detail needs experts. Expert time is worth it when it saves you a costly mistake. Main objective: Get the property back. Best action: Very precise treatment.

Serving a notice is actually the most important part of the possession process.

It isn’t complicated but one tiny error can cause dreadful problems.

That’s why we say, don’t DIY and don’t use internet amateurs. It’s not worth it.

1. Compliance Errors
If the tenant doesn’t leave at Step1, the notice had better be valid. Because then it has to go to court. Any little error can get a case thrown out. And you have to start all over again.

2. Attempting Short-Cuts.
In an effort to be quick, some internet services aimed at landlords are using short-cuts around the process. But if the tenant doesn’t leave (50%) these practices can backfire at court and the case thrown out.

3. Trying to Save Pennies.
Internet services have mushroomed and landlords can expect to get what they pay for. To get the process done PROPERLY it takes a certain amount of time for an expert to look over a file and be accurate. Our fees cover that expert time.

Chasing courts for dates, arranging advocates and preparing court papers is time consuming. Especially if you’ve never done it before.

Some landlord and agents have served notices themselves. They believed they were saving a few pounds but it often ended up costing them more.

If you lose a claim, the court can order you to pay the tenant’s defence cost, which can run to hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Our in-house Solicitors are there to get your property back as fast as they can. And we protect landlords and agents from themselves.

As experts, we know that in the rush to get things done, errors can happen. And those errors can can come back later to mess up your case – and the whole process has to start again.

You can speed things up – give us accurate information quickly. Help us to help you.

There are services on the web who will prepare papers BUT they get you to pay the court-fee separately and get you to sign the court papers – so in fact they don’t represent you!

If your notice (at Step1) wasn’t drafted or served correctly you risk wasting your court fees and losing a whole lot of time because of a small error.

We won’t let your case anywhere near a court until we have checked every little detail. To make sure you don’t waste time or money, at Step-2 we first only charge part of the fee.

If your notice is fine, then you just pay the balance of the fee and we issue the claim. If there is a problem with your notice or paperwork, we will advise you what to do next.

Courts take the view that possession proceedings can make someone homeless. So they are very careful. If there’s any error in the notice, they throw the case out. It’s the process. Get it right or lose.

If the notice is invalid, you have to start all over again. The weeks or months you’ve waited are wasted. If there were rent arrears, there are now more.

If there weren’t rent arrears, they might now start. More fees. More lost rent. And still no possession. Tenants can be alerted to making a counter-claim.

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