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Home > Country profiles > UK (England and Wales) > Articles > Article detail

News focus: Solicitors role in reform proposals over housing disputes

Wednesday, 12th March 2020

"A new disputes service is at the heart of proposals from Justice to tackle housing disputes. But it would not be a court, tribunal or ombudsman – so where do solicitors fit in?

Justice, the influential thinktank, has never been shy of advocating radical reforms to promote better access to justice. Its latest report is no exception, proposing a ‘bold, ambitious’ model to resolve housing disputes.

To put the report into context, the government has mooted plans for a specialist housing court, providing a single path of redress for landlords and tenants. With housing disputes held in multiple courts and tribunals, the government says the process to settle disputes can be confusing and deter some of the most vulnerable people from seeking justice. 

Justice concurs, saying too many find it difficult to enforce access to housing rights. Legal aid cuts have created housing ‘advice deserts’, while local authorities are struggling with rising demand for homelessness assistance. 

Justice makes 54 recommendations, but the one that has many housing lawyers worried is the Housing Disputes Service (HDS). This would act as a first-tier rather than pre-action stage for disputes, at the level of and equivalent to the county court and first-tier tribunal. In the longer term, HDS would become the specialist dispute resolution body. 

HDS would not be a court, tribunal or ombudsman. Justice says it would act as an arbiter, investigator, adviser and problem-solver, looking at all elements in a housing relationship on an inquisitorial basis. An investigation would include identifying, assessing and attempting to find solutions to the underlying problems giving rise to the dispute."

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Language: English
Contact: Monidipa Fouzder

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