The national body representing private sector landlords has called on the Ministry of Justice to take action to speed up the time taken for courts to process possession cases and set out a clear plan for reforming the court service.

In an open letter, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) complains about delays of up to six months or more before landlords can take back possession of their properties – which the NRLA says is particularly so with section 21 set to be abolished in the Renters’ Reform Bill.

The letter cites a recent report by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Select Committee which said: “It is not clear whether the Government fully appreciates the extent to which an unreformed courts system could undermine its tenancy reforms.”

Ahead of the second reading of the bill, the NRLA is calling for assurances that ministers will announce measures to reduce court wait times. These include the digitalisation of the court process, plans to increase the number of court staff dealing with possession cases, target processing times and publishing the ministry’s assessment of the impact the bill will have on the courts system.

Ben Beadle, NRLA Chief Executive, said: “The court service is failing its users and has done for some time. Court wait times are a major issue for landlords – particularly those who need to repossess property from anti-social tenants or those individuals who are in extreme rent arrears.

“Before the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill, the government must set out clearly what court reform means and bring confidence to the sector.

“Section 21 was introduced to give property owners the confidence to bring their property to the market in the knowledge that they could deal swiftly with problem tenants. With its abolition planned, landlords must have the same confidence that having given their tenant a legitimate reason, their repossession claim will be processed without delay.

“The levelling up secretary is absolutely right to insist that that Section 21 will only be abolished when the courts are ready to receive such cases, but now is the time for the detail. This must comprise investment, detail of digitalisation and punchy processing targets to give confidence that reforms will work for responsible landlords.

“Failing to do so will only jeopardise the implementation of the reforms and will likely exacerbate an already serious crisis of supply of rented housing.”