Research published by Professor Susan Bright of the University of Oxford and Dr Lisa Whitehouse, Law School, University of Hull.
Following three years of research, this collaboration between the University of Oxford and the University of Hull has found that there is a lack of ‘joined up thinking’ within the legal process in regard to housing possession.
The aim of this project was to discover how the mix of financial and non-financial factors is taken into account during the housing possession process for both mortgaged properties and rented homes. The findings show that the majority of people appearing in court at risk of having their housing repossessed did not attend their hearings, and the researchers also concluded that when defendants had access to legal advice and a housing advisor, outcomes were much more likely to be favourable.
The research for this report was conducted using research methods including legal analysis; interviewing decision-makers involved in housing possession cases and observing court possession days. The initial research aim was to evaluate the extent to which non-financial considerations (such as the welfare of children, exacerbation of health problems, loss of community networks, etc.) are taken into account in possession cases. Surveys were conducted to obtain detailed information about case management and the legal process of possession including the amount of advice and support available to defendants at court premises.
In the full report suggestions for improvement are made, including a review of court forms, changes to the use made of the rent and mortgage pre-action protocols, and that consideration should be given to whether the adoption of a less formal process would improve attendance rates whilst reducing demands on the judiciary and other court resources.
Research continues. This next stage is built around an invite only seminar to encourage the development and exchange of ideas relating to housing possession cases, in the context of the findings of our report. Participants in the seminar include members of the judiciary, mortgage lenders, legal practitioners, housing advisers, policy advisers, and landlord associations.
The report can be downloaded from the University of Oxford’s website, or via this link: www.law.ox.ac.uk/projects/Housing_Possession.