Not every landlord or agent would consider handling a possession claim themselves, but the good news is, it can be done – the system is designed for LIGs – litigant’s in person.
Everyone has the right to speak for themselves in court without the aid of a solicitor or other legal professional, and landlords will often prefer to do this because they can deal with the paperwork themselves, they can if necessary speak directly to the judge, if a hearing becomes necessary, and it saves on legal fees..
It may all change if section 21 is abolished and some form of Housing Tribunal is introduced, but as it stands right now it is possible to bring a possession claim using section 21 without the need for a hearing – its all done using the documentation you present.
If you handle it yourself you will be known as a ‘litigant in person’ and you will also be known as the ‘applicant’ in the county court. The usual reason for a possession claim online is the tenant is owning rent and the landlord wants the property back. The PCOL service currently costs £325.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service operates a Possession Claim Online service (PCOL) which allows you to start off the process conveniently online – PCOL is a simple, convenient and secure way of making or responding to certain types of possession claim on the Internet.
Civil Procedure Rule Practice Direction 55A governs the type of claims that can be issued using the PCOL service and landlords wishing to use it should familiarise themselves with this and the online User Guide before commencing the process. The is also support on procedures, not legal advice, by a Customer Help Desk.
The latest available figures show possession claims have been falling, and the quarter from January to March 2019 is representative with the majority (63%) (19,192) of all landlord possession claims being from social landlord claims, 16% (4,893) were accelerated possession (section 21) claims and 21% (6,266) were private landlord claims.
The 24 hour PCOL service allows small and infrequent users, such as private landlords, to fill out their claim online, while frequent users, such as local authorities or mortgage lenders, can link their data system directly into the Possession Claim Online interface to automatically start new claims.
When the service was launched for England and Wales, HMCS Chief Executive Sir Ron De Witt said:
“A Possession Claim Online is putting the needs of courts users first – it’s about accessing justice in a more efficient and convenient manner. The service is more convenient for users as it means that they can make their claim online and it is issued immediately, with a court date automatically scheduled. Those using PCOL no longer have to fill out a lengthy paper claim. And they can keep track of their claim at all stages, instead of having to contact the court.”
When applying for possession using section 21, landlords will need to follow closely the rules which govern the process which can be summarised as follows:
As well as the existing preconditions of complying with the deposit rules and having, where required, a selective, additional or HMO licence, when it applies, landlords must have, at the start of the tenancy, served:
- A current gas safety inspection certificate
- A current Energy Performance Certificate
- A current copy of the government’s “How to Rent” booklet
It is likely that before long landlords in England will also be required to prove an electrical safety certificate.
Failure to supply any of the above in the form of accurate documentary evidence means that your claim will be rejected.
The section 21 notice cannot be served during the original first 4 months of the tenancy and it will expire (in most cases) after six months. You cannot start the Section 21 claims process until the contractual tenancy terms has ended, though a Section 8 claim for breach of contract is different.
Trips and Traps for Landlords:
When problems arise within a tenancy it is often the case that communications breakdown between landlord and tenant. Tenants in arrears with the rent may refuse to cooperate with the landlord and refuse to allow access to the property to carry on an ECP assessment when it becomes due (every 10 years) or an annual gas safety inspection.
As these documents must be current at the time of serving a Section 21 notice the lack of them would stymie any Section 21 claim, so the landlord would in this case need to fall back on a section 8 claim.
Landlords who failed to serve a gas safety certificate at the start of the tenancy may be unable to use either process.