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Alternative approaches to resolving housing disputes

The current system for resolving disputes in the UK private rented sector is in urgent need of improvement. Courts and tribunals are often the first or only means of resolving disputes between landlords and tenants. These processes are inherently adversarial, often disempowering and will generally worsen existing conflicts between parties. Alternative dispute resolution is a process that allows disputes to be resolved without formal litigation procedures.

This research explores the role and potential of alternative dispute resolution in addressing landlord and tenant disputes in the UK private rented sector. Based on semi-structured professional interviews, a literature review and international case studies, this project investigates the operation, strengths and limitations of the approaches already operating within this context and provides suggestions for how dispute resolution could be improved.

Key Findings

  • Across the UK, mediation is generally only provided as an add-on to court or tribunal processes. At this point, parties have already begun to craft their claims in adversarial terms.
  • Mediation can provide a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes. However, it is not without its limitations and can risk exacerbating power inequalities.
  • Ombuds services and the UK tenancy deposit schemes provide alternative dispute resolution in the private rented sector. However, these providers only address certain aspects of housing issues and significant gaps in dispute resolution landscape remain.
  • The Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia, Tenancy Services in New Zealand and the Residential Tenancies Board in the Republic of Ireland are examples of where alternative dispute resolution has been used to address housing disputes.
  • Four key principles which could improve dispute resolution in the UK PRS include: i) providing a multi-tiered dispute resolution system, ii) prioritising active participation in the process, iii) delivering proportionate and appropriate dispute resolution, and iv) adopting a user-focused approach.

Author: Dr Jennifer Harris (University of Bristol)

An accompanying policy briefing has been published alongside this report.

This piece of work is part of a wider project on raising standards in the UK private rented sector.


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Date: February 27, 2020 9:00 am

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