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Posted on December 1st 2015 by admin-movingin

Landlords’ possession claims being held up as over-stretched courts turn to call centres

Possession hearings are being held up by the use of call centres by courts.

The claim comes from Landlord Action, which said 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 temps.

Twelve months ago, Landlord Action employed a full-time member of staff solely to follow up claims made to the courts.

The company says that 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.

Herbert said: “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.”

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.

Herbert said: “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 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.

She said: “If judges actually got to see these applications in the first instance, decisions could be made on most without the need for a hearing.”