In an effort to simplify the property tribunal process, the seven sets of rules which presently apply to various disputes over property will be brought together under one tribunal process.
This new tribunal came into effect on 1st July 2013, and is called the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber, which will merge the adjudicator to Her Majesty’s Land Registry with the Agricultural Land and Residential Property Tribunals. 12,000 cases are expected to be dealt with by the First-Tier Chamber annually and the new President of the Chamber will have a team of 19 judges and 2 senior judges in support.
It is hoped that the new consolidated tribunal will make justice more accessible and comprehensible to those locked in disputes ranging from residential leasehold and lease extension disputes to agricultural property disagreements.
The new property chamber effectively replaces the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal which is regularly called upon to resolve disputes relating to the prices quoted for lease extension or leasehold enfranchisement as well as arguments over property management issues, rent arrears and service charge disputes for example.
The point in having such tribunals is that they are supposedly less formal, more flexible and often faster and less expensive ways of reaching a valuation or settling a dispute than going through the courts. However, there have been accusations in the past that landlords and freeholders were able to take advantage of the LVT too easily meaning that leaseholders unfairly lost out. Freeholders were often able to cause delays by failing to provide documentation or information which was important to the leaseholder’s case but under the new rules, this will be more difficult as leaseholder will have greater freedom to demand disclosure of such information.
The changes mean that new rules and procedures will be used for tribunals and leaseholders, surveyors and solicitors alike need to make quick adjustments to get used to the fresh system. For example, the wording and content of various documents and forms (including the Right to Manage Claim Notice and Counter Notice, Ground Rent Demands and the Summary of Tenants Rights and Obligations) will need to change.
The new tribunal is set to have more powers than the LVT is replaces. One major criticism of the LVT was its lack of teeth but this should not be an issue with the First-Tier Tribunal. If one party fails to cooperate or actively breaks the rules, the tribunal will now be able to impose sanctions, which may mean excluding the party from the process. If a case is clearly baseless, parties will also be able to apply to have the case struck off. The power of the tribunal to award costs is also set to change. Under the LVT, costs could only be awarded up to £500 if a party behaved unreasonably, whereas there is no limit on the damages which can be awarded by the new tribunal.
The changes have of course only recently been introduced but the initial response from those within the legal profession has been possible with the focus firmly set upon making sure that lawyers and most importantly their clients can understand the process and access the tribunal easily.
For First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber Legal Advice – call us now
It is crucial that the solicitor you instruct to help with your property dispute or leasehold extension is an expert – especially now that the LVT has been replaced by the First-Tier Tribunal. Our specialist property team are here to advise you on the new process, so:
- Call us today on 01722 422300, or
- Complete the contact form below to get in touch.
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