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As of 1 July 2013, the Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2013 brought six Property Tribunals in England within the jurisdiction of the new First Tier Tribunal.
The Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal now incorporates:
The Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal) (Property Chamber) Rules 2013 (“the Rules”) were also introduced to take effect from 1 July 2013. This introduces 56 new procedural rules which apply to all cases from 1 July 2013 (both historic and those commenced on or after 1 July 2013). However, transitional provisions apply so that the Tribunal may consider whether the old rules should apply in certain circumstances.
The new rules have been described as being more akin to the Civil Procedure Rules currently followed by the Court. This note does not intend to summarise all the changes but those considered most noteworthy and of which practitioners and users of the Tribunal would be well advised to take heed of.
As with the Civil Procedure Rules, Rule 3 sets out the overriding objective of the Tribunal, namely that the purpose of the Rules is to ensure that cases are dealt with justly and fairly.
The Tribunal now has the power to take action against those parties who are in default of any directions made. This can include (but is not limited to):
Rule 9 provides a specific power for the Tribunal to strike out a party’s case (part or all of it) on a discretionary basis on one of the following grounds:
This particular rule is possibly of the most interest of all the changes. This is because the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal tended to be a “no costs” based procedure, where both sides bear their own costs if acting reasonably. Further, the LVT was only entitled to award up to £500 if a party acted unreasonably or vexatiously and in practice, Orders for costs were very rare.
The new Rules remove the costs cap, so there is now no limit as to the amount of costs that can be awarded. Pursuant to Rule 13, the Tribunal has the discretion to make an Order for costs where “a person has acted unreasonably in bringing, defending or conducting proceedings” which widens the previous power of the Tribunal to make a costs award. This will be of most interest to practitioners and industry specialists. In particular, we will be watching to see how the Tribunal will apply this particular cases going forward.
Rule 18 sets out a number of directions which the Tribunal has the discretion to give in dealing with disclosure and evidence including that the Tribunal may require that evidence to be given on oath. It is anticipated that this rule will result in more formality and structure at the final Hearing.
Rule 19 is much aligned to the requirements of the Court Civil Procedure Rules in relation to expert evidence. In particular, Rule 19 sets out that the Expert’s duty to assist the Tribunal overrides any obligation to his or her client. It also requires the Expert Report to:
It is anticipated that the new Rules will achieve consistency over across the various Property Tribunals and create a more structured and formal approach to resolving disputes before the Tribunal. Parties will now need to take more care then ever to ensure they comply with directions made by the Tribunal and be mindful of conduct to avoid risk of sanctions or adverse costs awards.
For more information please contact Simon Ewing, Partner
T: +44 (0)20 7203 5330