Publication - Research and analysis

Better Dispute Resolution in Housing: Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on the Introduction of a New Housing Panel for Scotland

Published: 17 Jun 2013
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781782566335

The research report presents the findings from an analysis of responses to the introduction of a new housing panel for Scotland consultation. The findings show who has responded to the consutlation and the key themes emerging from the responses.

61 page PDF

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61 page PDF

754.9 kB

Contents
Better Dispute Resolution in Housing: Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on the Introduction of a New Housing Panel for Scotland
4. Option 2: Pre-Court Housing Panel

61 page PDF

754.9 kB

4. Option 2: Pre-Court Housing Panel

4.1 The second option set out in the consultation document proposed the creation of a pre-court Housing Panel to which housing disputes could be referred before a case reached court. Such a panel could make enforceable decisions but where these are not complied with, cases could be escalated to court. It would also still be for courts to end tenancies and evict tenants.

4.2 As the consultation document makes clear, a pre-court Housing Panel is not intended as mutually exclusive from option 1 (promoting use of early preventative action and mediation) or option 3 (creating a Housing Panel to replace courts as the main forum for resolving some housing disputes). In consideration of option 1 in the previous section of this report, those in support of preventative action and mediation saw these as desirable options irrespective of any form of housing panel that may be implemented.

Question 6: Do you think there should be a Housing Panel as a pre-court dispute resolution forum for some housing disputes?

4.3 Question 6 asked respondents to consider whether there is a case for creation of a pre-court Housing Panel to consider some housing disputes and with powers to make enforceable interim decisions, but where cases would escalate to court if parties do not comply with these interim decisions. Courts would also retain sole powers to end tenancies and evict tenants.

Table 7: Question 6 - Response by Respondent Type

Respondent Type

Yes

No

Don't know/ mixed

N/A

Total

Registered Social Landlords

4

18

-

-

22

Local Authorities

1

22

-

-

23

Tenant and resident groups

12

5

-

1

18

Campaign and third sector orgs

5

5

-

5

15

Legal firms or representative groups

-

6

-

1

7

Lettings agents, private landlords & groups

3

3

-

1

7

Housing representative agencies and bodies

-

4

-

-

4

Other representative agencies and bodies

-

2

1

2

5

Individuals

7

3

-

5

15

TOTAL

32

68

1

15

116

4.4 A clear majority (68 of the 101 that answered this question) felt that a pre-court panel should not be established. Most respondent types felt that there is no case for a pre-court Housing Panel; indeed, all four of the housing representative agencies were opposed, as were a large majority of local authorities, RSLs, and legal firms/representative groups. In contrast, tenant/resident groups and individual respondents were broadly in favour of the creation of a pre-court Housing Panel.

4.5 A minority of consultation respondents - primarily those opposed to a pre-court Housing Panel - added their own comments in support of their response to Question 6 (the consultation response form did not provide space for written comments in response to this question). These comments made clear that respondents agreed with the intended outcomes of the pre-court panel, particularly in terms of the need to address delays and inconsistences in the current court-based housing dispute process. However, respondents highlighted a number of factors in support of their view that a pre-court Housing Panel would not be an effective means of achieving the intended outcomes:

  • A pre-court Housing Panel would add further stages to the existing dispute resolution process, with the associated potential for further delay and cost in dealing with cases:
    "It would produce no obvious benefits and is likely to create confusion and further delay, with an additional process which would ultimately cost landlords and tenants more." - Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland
  • The potential for a pre-court Housing Panel to add further delay to the dispute resolution process is likely to be a particular issue in the context of the requirement for parties to evidence that they have attempted to resolve the dispute before it can be considered by the panel:
    "Having tried and failed once, those on the receiving end of [antisocial behaviour] would be less than impressed with having to repeat the process in a marginally more formal way before the matter was heard in court." - Homeless Action Scotland
  • There is a question over the feasibility of resourcing a pre-court Housing Panel in terms of staff time and financial cost. This was highlighted particularly in relation to the very significant caseload likely to be borne by the panel:
  • If a pre-court Housing Panel does not have the power to evict landlords, parties may not recognise it as a significant part of the dispute resolution process and may therefore fail to engage effectively. Respondents were also sceptical as to the likely efficacy of a pre-court Housing Panel in engaging a tenant who chooses not to engage with a landlord:
    "The main disadvantage of a pre-court arrangement is that it may add to a lengthening of an already drawn out process, and may continue to be beset with the same problems of non-appearance and other delaying tactics." - Glasgow City Council
  • Current policies and procedures require an "escalation of intervention approach" (Antisocial Behaviour Lawyers Forum), and, for example, pre-court arrangements for many rent arrears cases appear to play a similar role to the proposed pre-court Housing Panel. Current court processes are sufficiently flexible to offer the benefits that the consultation document envisages for the pre-court Housing Panel - for example through issuing guidance and using courts' preliminary hearings for rent arrears and antisocial behaviour cases.
  • Concern about legal involvement and representation appears to be one of the motivations for proposing a pre-court Housing Panel. A panel dealing with housing where eviction may result either eventually or immediately will not reduce the need for representation in dispute cases. Vulnerable clients in particular are to require advice, assistance and representation by the relevant expert. More broadly, if landlords are likely to be represented by lawyers, for tenants not to be represented will introduce serious prejudice that has the potential to undermine the credibility of the panel process. Social landlords raised concerns where housing staff may be required to set out their case in close proximity to tenant(s), and the extent to which this may have a detrimental impact on landlord-tenant relationships.

Q6a: Which cases should the panel handle?

4.6 In considering which dispute cases a pre-court Housing Panel should consider, a number of comments suggested that the more inquisitorial approach could be suited to the consideration of most or all housing dispute cases. However, most comments at question 6a focused on specific categories of dispute case. Reference was made here to specific types of dispute - e.g. housing debts, antisocial behaviour, etc - but also to factors which may cut across types of dispute such as where mediation has failed, more 'minor' cases, where tenants' needs may be better met via a less formal and inquisitorial approach. Particular types of cases suggested by respondents included:

  • Dispute cases involving rent arrears or other housing debts, such as service charges. A pre-court Housing Panel may be a preferred option for less serious debt cases such as where tenants have incurred arrears for the first time, and there is a risk that any delay at the pre-court Housing Panel stage could lead to further arrears accruing by the time a case reaches court. Arrears cases are typically focused on determining facts, rather than considering differences of opinion, and as such the panel approach may need to be tailored accordingly.
  • Antisocial behaviour cases, family and neighbour disputes would appear to suit a more inquisitorial approach. However, there is a risk that where cases have already been through well-developed dispute resolution and mediation services, a pre-court Housing Panel may add further delay and cost with relatively little chance of resolution being reached without recourse to the court. As is noted at question 6b, it was also suggested that a panel may not be suitable in cases involving issue of an Antisocial Behaviour Order (ASBO), where the breach of such an Order would be a criminal offence.
  • Dispute cases associated with disrepair and property condition can be particularly frustrating and a cause of significant anxiety for tenants - a less adversarial, and potentially less formal environment would better suit these cases.
  • Failure of landlords to meet statutory obligations, including the repairing standard, provision of Tenant Information Pack, providing lease, rent record, use of an authorised tenancy deposit scheme. A panel approach could offer significant benefits in these cases, as the current requirement to use (and associated costs of) legal representation in summary applications can dissuade tenants from pursuing this route.
  • A pre-court Housing Panel would be most appropriate for more 'minor' cases, such as first-time cases of anti-social behaviour or rent arrears.
  • Cases where prior mediation has failed would seem suitable for escalation to a pre-court Housing Panel. This could include cases which are not appropriate for mediation and/or do not meet referral criteria, where one or more parties are not willing to participate, or simply where mediation does not end in resolution.
  • A panel environment may offer significant benefits where one or more parties may have difficulties engaging with other dispute resolution processes, for example those with numeracy or literacy difficulties.
  • Cases which can be very costly and difficult for parties to take to court, for example failing to use the tenancy as the principal home, or allowing a property to deteriorate.

Q6b: Are there cases which would not be appropriate?

4.7 In addition to cases highlighted above which were considered appropriate for a pre-court Housing Panel, question 6b asked respondents to identify cases where a pre-court Housing Panel would not be a suitable forum. Again, a range of cases were suggested, including specific types of dispute (e.g. antisocial behaviour, rent arrears) and also reference to a case proceeding through prior mediation stages.

4.8 In terms of specific types of case it is also notable that respondent views were divided on the extent to which a pre-court Housing Panel would be an appropriate forum for antisocial behaviour and rent arrears cases. These were amongst the most commonly identified as not appropriate for a pre-court Housing Panel (Q6b), but were also amongst the most commonly identified as suitable (Q6a). To some extent this appears to reflect differing views on the likely success of a pre-court Housing Panel in resolving such cases.

4.9 In relation to cases which would not be appropriate for a pre-court Housing Panel, the following points were made:

  • Antisocial behaviour cases, and particularly more serious cases, could take longer to resolve if a pre-court Housing Panel stage is introduced. This reflected some scepticism about the likely success of a pre-court Housing Panel in resolving more serious antisocial behaviour cases. The status of a pre-court Housing Panel could also raise issues in consideration of cases likely to involve issuing of an ASBO, as the breach of an interim Order issued by a pre-court Housing Panel would result in criminal prosecution. The greater level of scrutiny offered by the courts is required in making such Orders.
  • Cases involving rent arrears and/or damage or deterioration to property would not be appropriate for a pre-court Housing Panel. From the landlords' perspective a pre-court Housing Panel may be seen as giving tenants an opportunity to further delay meeting their obligations, with any such delay likely to result in further cost to the landlord. For tenants, there is a risk that arrears could further accrue during the pre-court Housing Panel process, and individuals may find themselves incurring further debt if the panel simply delays the case proceeding to court.
  • A pre-court Housing Panel would not be suitable for cases which may result in eviction of a tenant/repossession by a landlord. This view was related to one of two respondent perspectives. For tenants, the significance of the potential outcome of these cases in terms of losing their home requires a level of scrutiny and rigour that can only be offered by a court. For landlords, the entitlement to repossession should not be delayed by further stages in the resolution process prior to court.
  • Cases where the dispute relates to Part 1 of Schedule 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988.
  • Cases involving potentially criminal activity - such as violence, hate crimes, supply of drugs, arson. This included some overlap in respondent views in relation to the suitability of a pre-court Housing Panel for more serious antisocial behaviour cases.
  • Cases which require a judgement to be made on a factual or point of law, where the inquisitorial approach of a pre-court Housing Panel is unlikely to bring significant benefit to the current court approach.
  • Cases where parties have already met the pre-action requirement are less likely to be resolved at a pre-court Housing Panel, given the potential for one or both parties to see the panel as a further delay prior to court.

Q6c: Who should be able to refer cases to the panel?

4.10 Turning to the question of who should be able to refer dispute cases to the pre-court Housing Panel, views were divided on the extent to which this should be restricted. A minority of respondents suggested that any party connected to or affected by a dispute should be able to refer to the panel. This would include third parties. In relation to third parties who may be able to refer a case to the panel, specific reference was made to neighbours, mediation officers, health professionals, social work services, local authorities (as statutory body or landlord), property factors or agents and the Scottish Housing Regulator.

4.11 The suggestion of referral being open to all affected parties contrasts with a view that only those directly involved in the dispute should be able to refer the case. This could include mediation services and appointed representatives or advocates, but these respondents suggested it would be undesirable to allow third parties who are not involved in the dispute to refer the case. Indeed it was suggested that allowing third parties to refer a case could compromise the rights of the parties involved, who have the right to refer their case to the pre-court Housing Panel, but also the right not to do so.

4.12 In terms of specific parties that should be able to refer cases to the panel, the following points were made:

  • Both parties to a dispute should be in agreement that the case should be referred to the panel, otherwise the case should proceed to court.
  • Local authorities may require the ability to refer a case to the panel to meet their statutory duties - for example undertaking common works to properties, protecting individuals at risk.
  • There may be benefits in use of a single gateway for referrals. This could help to streamline the dispute resolution process by ensuring that cases reach the appropriate forum - including referral to court if this is the more appropriate option. Experience of the prhp suggests that there may be significant benefit in a mechanism to assess the competency or appropriateness of cases being referred to the pre-court Housing Panel - this could apply irrespective of who has the power to refer cases.

Q6d: Who should be panel members and would they require particular qualifications?

4.13 Question 6d asked respondents to consider the most appropriate composition of a pre-court Housing Panel, including specific skills and qualifications that may be required.

4.14 Most respondents suggested that a pre-court Housing Panel would be most effective where members have a range of backgrounds, skills and qualifications. A large majority indicated that this should include lay person representation, for example alongside members with housing and legal qualifications. This included some reference to the composition of the prhp and other tribunals, comprising a legally qualified chair, suitably qualified members, and lay representation.

4.15 Respondents also made reference to other panels and tribunals in terms of the required number of pre-court Housing Panel committee members - in this regard, most suggested 3-5 members.

4.16 The following specific groups and issues were highlighted in relation to the composition of a pre-court Housing Panel:

  • Legal professionals. There may be benefit in an independent legal professional to take the role of panel chair, as is the case for other similar tribunals. This could include, for example, a focus on ensuring European Convention on Human Rights compliance, and that decisions are properly recorded and sufficiently specific to be enforceable.
  • Trained and qualified housing professionals with adequate relevant experience in dispute handling were seen as crucial to the effectiveness of a pre-court Housing Panel, and a key element in ensuring that the consistency of decision making is improved. This included specific reference to housing practitioners and/or tenancy sustainment professionals. More broadly, reference was also made to residential property expertise including solicitors and rent assessment officers.
  • Layperson members with suitable housing knowledge were recommended by the majority of respondents to this question. However, it was also suggested that enabling non-qualified panel members to make decisions on matters of law would be a mistake, and could have significant consequences in terms of potential miscarriages of justice and undermining the court system.
  • An experienced tenant representative/activity and/or advocate, including specific reference to local tenant/resident associations, and to the Tenant Participation Advisory Service Scotland.
  • The composition of a pre-court Housing Panel should be sufficiently flexible to take account of the requirements of specific cases. This primarily involved reference to a facility to draw on additional expertise that may be required for specific cases - including debt advisors (e.g. in arrears cases) and chartered surveyors (where cases relate to repairs or other technical issues). There may also be a need to vary the 'core' panel membership between social and private sector cases, effectively leading to separate but linked panels, with a single gateway for routing cases.
  • There is likely to be a need for different panels to sit in different locations, presenting risks to the pre-court Housing Panel's success in addressing current inconsistencies across Sheriff courts in dealing with housing dispute cases. There will be a requirement for continuous training and assessment to ensure consistency of outcomes throughout Scotland.
  • Recruitment to the panel should be widely advertised to ensure the broadest and highest quality field for selection, and consideration should also be given to appropriate remuneration for panel members to ensure the required calibre of members can be secured and retained.

Q6e: How long should panel orders remain in place for?

4.17 Question 6e sought views on the length of time that orders issued by a pre-court Housing Panel should remain in place.

4.18 A range of specific timescales were suggested (as listed below), in many cases with reference to ensuring consistency with other tribunals, courts and relevant legislation. In addition to these specific time periods, respondents also made the more general point that there may be benefit in the panel having the option to determine the length of time an order should remain in place with reference to the specifics of the case (and possibly within some prescribed upper and lower limits). This would be important, for example, in arrears cases where the period of time over which arrears are to be cleared would be a key element of the panel's order, and would clearly be relevant to the period of time the order should remain in place.

4.19 In terms of specific time periods for panel orders to remain in place, the following points were made:

  • Two months, to be consistent with orders given to private sector landlords.
  • Six months, to be consistent with the 2010 Act.[1]
  • 12 months following resolution of the issue - for example 12 months following arrears being cleared, or antisocial behaviour ceasing.
  • 2-3 years.

Q6f: If panel orders (e.g. to pay rent arrears) were not complied with, how and when should the case be escalated to court for a final decision (e.g. on whether to evict the tenant)?

4.20 Respondents were somewhat divided on how and when cases should be escalated to court for a final decision where panel orders are not complied with. Views ranged from the panel being permitted some discretion in how cases are escalated to court, to those suggesting that fast-track escalation to court should occur immediately and automatically upon first breach of the panel order. The following points were made:

  • The approach taken to escalation of cases to court may require to be tailored to specific cases. For example, procedures for rent arrears cases are subject to legislation and landlord policy, whereas the panel may be permitted to exercise more discretion in relation to other cases dependent on the nature of the dispute and Interim Order. In this regard, an approach where the case is referred back to the panel as soon as there is evidence of non-compliance would allow the panel (rather than any specific party) to remain in control of determination of whether an order has been breached and the appropriate next steps for escalation. This approach would also be consistent with the shift in emphasis to an inquisitorial tribunal approach to housing disputes, where court is used as a last resort.
  • Cases should be fast-tracked to court immediately upon first breach of the Panel order, with no further consideration given by the panel.
  • Escalation of cases should be automatically implemented at the end of the time period set by the panel for compliance with the order, where there has been no attempt to comply.
  • Further clarification is required in relation to the notion of an 'expedited path' to court, particularly in the context of the requirement for parties to have sufficient time to prepare their case properly.
    "It is difficult to see what sort of expedited procedure would be necessary when service of the required statutory forms (AT6/Notice to Quit) has taken place. Parties would also still need to be given sufficient time to consider any court papers served on them before the first calling in court." Turcan Connell

Q6g: In addition to the management activities of landlords and regulatory bodies, what added value would a Housing Panel provide?

4.21 Consultation respondents identified a range of anticipated benefits associated with a pre-court Housing Panel. A substantial number of comments here reiterated the intended outcomes of the proposals in terms of providing a speedier route to more effective resolution of housing disputes, one that involves more specialist housing knowledge and which is less intimidating for tenants. This included reference to the panel environment to be more accessible for tenants who may be less likely to engage with services, and thus the potential to preserve more tenancies. The following specific points were made:

  • Potential reduction in the financial and resource costs associated with housing disputes, both in terms of providing a speedier resolution to disputes (e.g. reducing accrual of arrears) and reducing legal fees.
  • Reducing pressure on courts, hopefully permitting more efficient and effective handling of those cases that do go to court.
  • Providing a potential basis for expanding the role of a pre-court Housing Panel to include other disputes such as statutory notices of local authorities, Tenement (Scotland) Act 2004 appeals and other property related issues.
  • A potentially strategic role in encouraging prevention and early resolution of housing disputes, and particularly within the private rented sector in terms of encouraging private landlords to try a range of preventative approaches prior to legal action.
  • The potential for the panel to help "set the tone" (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) in improving decision making in the private letting industry more widely.
  • Improving intelligence on the context and reasons for housing disputes.

Q6h. If no, what alternative form of formal dispute resolution might better apply to the cases described here?

Q6i: If no, do you think improvements to the dispute resolution system would be better delivered through proposals for civil court reform as outlined in paragraphs 4.5 to 4.9 of the consultation document?

4.22 Question 6h asked those opposed to the creation of a pre-court Housing Panel, to identify any alternative forms of formal dispute resolution that might better apply to housing dispute cases. A number of comments provided at this question reinforced a preference for option 3 (a Housing Panel to replace the courts as a decision maker) as a more streamlined and effective option, alongside use of preventative work and mediation. Others suggested that proposed court reforms (addressed at question 6i), together with recently introduced pre-court requirements should provide a more effective alternative to a pre-court Housing Panel. It was suggested that allowing these proposals to 'bed-in' and for their effectiveness to be assessed, is required prior to any decision to introduce a Housing Panel.

4.23 In terms of alternative forms of dispute resolution, the following points were made:

  • Arbitration should be considered as an option for resolution of disputes outside the courts, where parties to the dispute refer it to one or more arbitrators or an arbitral tribunal, by whose decision they agree to be bound. Specific reference was made to the Scottish Arbitration Rules in Schedule 1 to the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010, as a potential basis for an arbitration system for housing disputes. This option offers a number of specific benefits including:
    • Flexibility for parties to the dispute to select an arbitrator with appropriate expertise.
    • A speedier, less costly and, if required, less formal option than court.
    • More limited avenues for appeal reduces the duration of the dispute and any associated liability.
  • The pre action requirements (PARs) process is currently an effective approach within the social rented sector, and ensures that tenants are given access to advice, information and support before court proceedings are raised. Extending PARs across other tenures would be a preferable option than introducing a pre-court Housing Panel.
  • A legal basis for judicial mediation is already in place, with Summary Cause Rules enabling the Sheriff to determine the legal basis on which a case is to proceed, and to seek to negotiate settlement between the parties. Adapting the current court-based approach to housing disputes in this way could be as effective as introducing a new stage in resolution. Such flexibility, together with early action and mediation, and the pre-courts requirements, is sufficient to ensure an appropriate response to different types of housing dispute.

4.24 Question 6i asked those opposed to a pre-court Housing Panel, whether proposed civil court reforms would better deliver required improvements to the dispute resolution system. Responses are summarised in the table below.

Table 8: Question 6i - Response by Respondent Type

Respondent Type

Yes

No

Don't know

N/A

Total

Registered Social Landlords

9

7

1

5

22

Local Authorities

11

7

5

-

23

Tenant and resident groups

4

2

1

11

18

Campaign and third sector orgs

5

1

-

9

15

Legal firms or representative groups

3

2

-

2

7

Lettings agents, private landlords & groups

2

2

-

3

7

Housing representative agencies and bodies

1

3

-

-

4

Other representative agencies and bodies

2

1

-

2

5

Individuals

3

4

-

8

15

TOTAL

40

29

7

40

116

4.25 A little more than half of respondents (40 out of the 76 that answered this question) felt that required improvements in the dispute resolution system would be better delivered through proposed civil court reforms. This profile of support amongst those answering the question was broadly similar across respondent groups, although most housing representative agencies felt that the required improvements would not be best delivered via civil court reforms.

4.26 As was evident at question 6, a minority of respondents added their own comments in support of their response to question 6i (the consultation response form did not provide space for written comments at this question). This included comments in support of a small number of 'yes' responses, and comments suggesting there is no reason to believe that a pre-court Housing Panel would deliver better housing dispute resolution than reformed civil courts. These respondents suggested that reformed courts may deliver better dispute resolution, but that in the absence of a clear case for a panel delivering significantly better outcomes, the expense of the panel could not be justified. This included reference to a need to allow court reforms to 'bed in', before an informed decision is taken on any Housing Panel.

4.27 The following points were made by those who felt that civil court reforms would better deliver the required dispute resolution improvements:

  • Establishment of summary Sheriffs provide an opportunity to deal with the shortcomings of the current system, providing a streamlined process where decision makers have the time and expertise to deal with housing issues, and where all parties can be fully heard.
  • Civil court reform could deliver the same benefits as a pre-court Housing Panel, if appropriate housing expertise can be secured within courts.
  • The consultation process is somewhat premature as there has been no opportunity to assess the extent to which reforms to Sheriff courts will deliver the benefits anticipated for the proposed pre-court Housing Panel.

4.28 Those who did not feel that civil court reforms would deliver the required improvements made the following points:

  • Some scepticism that summary sheriffs will have interest in a housing specialism, particularly in the context of a large and mixed caseload. The lack of specialism is highlighted as a key problem with the current approach to housing dispute resolution, and a "critically important feature of a new housing panel" (Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland).
  • Summary Sheriff court proposals still risk housing cases not being given sufficient priority within a mixed caseload. This included the suggestion that a separate summary Sheriff court specialising in housing only cases (including criminal cases) would be a more appropriate option.
  • The creation of a specific housing-focused forum for dispute resolution would ensure better resolution of housing disputes.
  • Proposed court reforms will not be sufficient to deliver the required streamlining and improvement in housing dispute resolution, but may still have benefit alongside some form of housing panel.

Summary of Key Issues on a Pre-Court Housing Panel

A clear majority of respondents felt that a pre-court Housing Panel should not be established.

There was some suggestion that the more inquisitorial panel approach could be suited to the consideration of most or all housing dispute cases. However, most respondents suggested the panel's remit should be focused on specific types of dispute such as housing debts and antisocial behaviour, potentially taking into account whether mediation has failed or where tenants' needs may be better met via a less formal inquisitorial approach.

Respondents were divided on the range of parties who should be able to refer the case to the panel. Some suggested that third parties should be able to make a referral, including neighbours, mediation officers, local authority or other statutory bodies. Others suggested that a referral should only be made by those party to the dispute, potentially including mediation services or representatives/advocates involved in the case.

Most respondents suggested that panels would be most effective where members have a range of backgrounds, skills and qualifications - suggestions typically including lay person representation alongside members with housing and legal qualifications.

A range of specific timescales were suggested for panel orders to remain in place, including reference to ensuring consistency with other tribunals, courts and relevant legislation. There may be benefit in the panel tailoring the length of time an order should remain in place based on the specifics of the case.

Views on how and when cases should be escalated to court ranged from the panel being permitted some discretion in how cases are escalated to court, to those suggesting that fast-track escalation to court should occur immediately and automatically upon first breach of the panel order.

Those opposed to the creation of a pre-court Housing Panel made clear that they agree with the intended outcomes of the panel, particularly in terms of the need to address delays and inconsistences in the current court-based housing dispute process. However, a pre-court Housing Panel was seen as less likely than other options to achieve these outcomes, and as risking further delay and cost to resolution of housing disputes.

Around half of those opposed to a pre-court Housing Panel felt that required improvements in the dispute resolution system would be better delivered through proposed civil court reforms. This was linked to a view that in the absence of a clear case for the panel delivering significantly better outcomes than reformed courts, the expense of the panel could not be justified. There is also a perceived need to allow court reforms to 'bed in', to allow an informed view on whether a pre-court Housing Panel would further improve dispute resolution.


Contact

Email: Paul Sloan