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By J
03/06/2013

One Statutory Instrument to rule them all

The new First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) is – almost – here (we’ve been warning you about this for a while, see, e.g. here).

On July 1, 2013, the new tribunal will burst forth into the world (well, England and, for very limited purposes, Wales) and replace the LVT, RAC, Agricultural Lands Tribunal, etc. And, to mark this happy occasion, we’ve (finally) been given some new procedural rules to govern this tribunal. In short, there will be one set of rules to govern them all, one website to find them, one building to house them all and, in the darkness bind them.

The new rules are, in fairness, pretty good. There are extensive case-management powers in rules 3 and 6 which, whilst they may not come as any great surprise to those who regularly use the CPR, they’re a vast improvement over the various rules which they replace (e.g. there is now a power to extend time even if a time limit has passed – very useful, but  totally lacking from the old LVT procedure regulations). Failure to comply with directions, etc, is dealt with r.8 and punishments range from waiving the failing through to barring your participation in proceedings.

A problem with the old r.11 of the LVT procedure regs is corrected by r.9 of the new regs. Now it is possible to strike out the whole or part of either side’s case whereas previously, only an applicant could be struck out.

Detailed provision is also made for disclosure of documents etc (r.16-18). Importantly, a new power (r.20) is introduced allowing the Tribunal to issue a witness summons or order that someone answer specific questions (presumably these need to be relevant to the case, so the FTT(PC) can’t order you to name the best Bowie album of all time or explain what Gavelkind was).

The FTT(PC) may transfer cases to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) if they are complex, lengthy or of high-value (r.25). It’ll be interesting to see how that power is used. I wonder how many clients will want to try and by-pass the FTT(PC)? I suppose if you *know* that your case is going to the Court of Appeal, you might try and save some time and money. Although, given the backlog of cases in the UT, one wonders how much time you’d actually save. Presumably some sort of practice direction will be produced in due course.

Part 4 deals with conduct of hearings. Not much new here, but r.35 is useful as it provides for consent orders. Previously, there was some uncertainty about how, if at all, the LVT could deal with such orders.

Given the wide range of work that the FTT(PC) will be doing, it’s hardly surprising that there are some special rules for certain kinds of case. If you’re dealing with land registration cases, or cases about drainage on agricultural land, etc, then you need (a) a stiff drink; and, (b), Pt.5 of these rules.

The area where I can foresee the most practical difficulty is Pt.6. The slip rule is preserved (r.50), but a new power is introduced allowing the FTT(PC) to set aside a decision which, in effect, has been reached in breach of natural justice (r.51). I confess, I see plenty of satellite litigation coming out of this power. I also see problems with the new powers (r.53, 55) allowing the FTT(PC) to review its decision when being asked for permission to appeal. Again, satellite litigation seems inevitable.

 

 

 

 

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.

2 Comments

  1. Francis Davey

    I always found the review power in the Employment Tribunals both useful and not over-used. Sometimes a tribunal just gets it wrong for reasons that are easier and quicker to correct via a review than an appeal and sometimes that is much the best way to do it.

    Reply
  2. HMA Law

    I’m with Francis on this one, it can just be the best way to go about things.

    Reply

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