A day in court is a rare event for me. So it was illuminating to attend a county court hearing assisting a friend trying to recover her tenancy deposit.
Judgment had been issued against the landlord, who had failed to respond to the claim. In his application to set aside the judgment, apart from denying he had received the claim, the landlord had set out the spurious arguments previously given in a letter to the tanants and more as to why he felt entitled – without it seems any serious consideration of the terms of the tenancy agreement – to withhold almost the entire deposit.
The DJ listened politely but felt no need to ask the tenant to speak and dismissed the landlord’s application as he could show no quantifiable loss. So the judgment stands, though seeing the colour of the landlord’s money will have to wait.
What struck me, however, was how inefficient the system is:
- The DJ admitted he did not have a copy of the claim in front of him though it had been submitted online and was presumably just a click and print away.
- The proceedings were informal, but nevertheless the DJ used standard legal jargon. Neither claimant nor defendant were native English speakers and did not fully understand much that was said or the result. Indeed, the landlord seemed to think he had won and I had to disabuse him after the hearing. Could the DJ not have explained “that means you’ll have to pay up, mate”?
- We’d all taken a few hours off to see to the matter and were all gathered together in one room, the amount of the judgment was calculable and the landlord had his wallet in his pocket. Yet there was no court service “ATM” in the corner to accept the landlord’s credit card at the one end and spew out a cheque in favour of the tenant at the other!
Bring on Justice 2.0!