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02/01/2012

Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on ’bout the rent

Tolui v London Rent Assessment Panel [2011] EWHC (Admin), [2011] All ER (D) 126 (Dec) [On Lawtel, not on Bailii yet] Or how not to go about challenging a Rent Assessment Panel decision.

Mr T is the landlord of a rent act protected tenancy. In 2009 he applied to the Rent Assessment Panel under the Rent Act 1977 to register a fair rent for the property of £360 per week. The RAP set a fair rent of £63.50 per week in January 2010. Mr T responded by issuing Judicial Review proceedings in April 2010 challenging the RAP’s decision.

The correct procedure was by way of a statutory appeal to the High Court, to be brought within 28 days of the RAP decision. Mr T was informed of this by the Treasury Solicitor for the RAP and told that although he was now out of time, it was open to him to apply for an extension of time and that this would be considered favourably, not least because the RAP had only provided reasons for its decision in April 2010. Mr T ignored this and did not apply for an extension of time.

In August 2010, the Treasury Solicitor invited Mr T to discontinue the JR proceedings, again suggesting that he applied for an extension of time for an appeal, which would not be opposed if it was made without delay. 3 weeks later, in September 2010, Mr T finally sought to commence his appeal. The Treasury Solicitor urged that the application be rejected as out of time.

The Administrative Court held:
While it was often difficult for Litigants in Person to understand the proper route for appeal, and they often wrongly regarded Judicial Review as the appropriate route, it was not possible to make allowances for the extent of the delay here. Mr T had taken 3 months to institute the JR proceedings. He had then had ample time to commence the appeal proceedings after receiving the detailed reasons in April 2010 and the Treasury Solicitor’s first guidance on the appropriate route. It would only be open to the court to consider granting an extension of time if there were really unanswerable grounds of appeal.

The grounds of appeal were hat the RAP had erred in its assessment of a fair rent by failing to take account of the scarcity of rental property in the area and improvements he had made to his property.

There was no basis to find that the RAP had erred on the issue of scarcity. It was an expert panel. Its conclusions could not be challenged as an error of law as the decision was an exercise of the RAP’s own judgement. The issue was one that was particularly within the RAP’s expertise and the Administrative Court would rarely interfere with the RAP’s conclusions in an area of its expertise. Ahmed v Murphy (2010) EWHC 453 (Admin) applied {our report here].

Similarly, the issue of improvements was within the RAP’s expertise. There was no basis to suggest that the approach taken by the RAP on the improvements was not lawful.

As Mr T could show no error of law in the RAP’s assessment, the grounds of appeal were very far from unanswerable and there was no basis to grant an extension of time for his appeal. Application dismissed.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

1 Comment

  1. NL

    According to Legal Action October 2012, Mr Tolui had an application for permission for a second appeal refused by Patten LJ. ON the length of time issue, Patten LJ said the decision above was ‘on the tough side’ but within the Judge’s discretion and not an error of law founding an appeal.

    Reply

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