19 July 2013

The First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) 1 July 2013

On 1 July 2013, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) in England became a 'First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)'. The aim is to bring the LVT more in line with other tribunals and courts in a newly unified system. The new rules should have a significant impact. It is hoped that the tribunal will now take a more pro-active approach to case management which, in turn, should help to avoid unnecessary delays and wasted costs.

The cases to be heard in the First-tier Tribunal will remain the same as the LVT and appeals from the LVT will continue to be heard in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). There are, however, a number of procedural changes. The old Rent Assessment Committee, Rent Tribunals, LVT, Agricultural Tribunals and Adjudicator to HM Land Registry will be abolished.

The Property Chamber is regulated by the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) Property Chamber Rules 2013 SI 2013/1169(L8). It will include three new departments, Residential Property, Agricultural Land and Drainage and Land Registration.

The new rules will apply to ALL cases whether started before or after 1 July 2013 save that the new rules on costs do not apply to cases started before 1 July 2013 although the Tribunal have discretion to apply any of the new rules in the interest of fairness.

The most notable changes under the new rules are as follows:

1. Under Rule 3 the CPR style "over riding objective" will apply to enable the tribunal to deal with cases fairly and justly.

2. Under Rule 4 the tribunal is obliged to bring the parties attention to ADR

3. Under Rule 6 the tribunal has new case management powers to regulate its own procedure. For example it can suspend the effect of a decision pending an appeal.

4. Under Rules 8-9 the tribunal has power to impose sanctions where there has been a failure to comply with directions including barring participation in proceedings. It can also issue Unless Orders with the power to strike out a case if a party fails to comply and can strike out the whole or part of proceedings if a claim or response is frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of process. These Rules replicate the Courts powers under CPR Rules 3 to 24.

5. Under Rule 13 the tribunal now has power to order unlimited costs against a person who has acted unreasonably in bringing or defending a claim or conducting proceedings. Previously the costs were limited to £500. This is a significant change which will be welcomed as it should prevent costs being wasted on claims that have no merit and also gives the LVT greater power in terms of dealing with unreasonable behaviour.

6. Under Rule 19 expert reports are now required at least 7 days before a hearing. This, combined with the ability to impose sanctions should make a big difference to the current practice of filing expert reports the day before the hearing.

7. Under Rule 23 it is possible to join cases together where the cases give rise to common issues. This may be useful on enfranchisement claims where common valuation issues arise.

8. Under Rule 25 it is now possible for the President of the Property Chamber to consider transferring cases to the Upper Tribunal where the issues are complex or the claim is of a very high value.

9. Under Rules 51-54 which concerns corrections and appeals the Tribunal is given quite wide powers not only to correct clerical mistakes, but on any application to appeal their decision they now have the power to review the decision, and if they think the point being made is correct, can allow parties to make further representations on the issue and can then alter their decision to pre-empt an appeal.


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