The government is closing half of the emergency Nightingale courts set up during the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially leaving landlords with longer waits to possess properties.
An extra 23 temporary courts were opened in hotels and conference centres in 2020 to allow for more social distancing than many purpose-built courtrooms. Of those, 11 will close at the end of this month, while the other 12 will stay open until next March.
Landlords and agents worry that a reduction in court capacity could lead to longer possession processes. While politicians say that the situation is improving, the average landlord possession case in October-December 2021 took 42.1 weeks from the claim being issued – twice as long as it took pre-pandemic, and less than a week quicker than at the end of 2020.
The same statistics also noted that landlord possession claims are still being brought at a much lower rate than before the pandemic, but have increased sharply since 2020. If that trend continues, the court system could be overloaded again very quickly.
However, the government is taking other steps to reduce backlogs. Some of the courtrooms closed during the pandemic have been able to reopen. More virtual court capacity is also being provided, allowing 13,600 hearings each week to be held remotely.
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