The County Court at Central London are set to pilot a new 12 month scheme for unopposed lease renewals whereby all cases will be transferred to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in London. The current scheduled start date is January 2018.
The idea of the pilot is to speed up the renewal process, allow cases to run more smoothly and should save costs. All other Courts will remain unaffected for the time being and any case wrongly issued in Central London to take advantage of the scheme, will be transferred to the relevant Court.
The key changes are:
- The timeframe from issue of any Court proceedings to Trial will be 20 weeks.
- The parties will not be able to agree a stay of the claim, except a one off three month stay at the beginning for PACT referral or alternative dispute resolution.
- If stay is not ordered, standard Tribunal directions will apply as follows:
- No case management conference, disclosure or witness statements.
- One round of tenant amendments to the draft lease only.
- Valuation expert evidence to be exchanged before terms are agreed.
- A Judge will sit with a valuer/assessor to determine the matter at Trial.
Will it make a difference?
The new process should, in many cases, lead to costs savings for both parties when compared with the usual Court process and speed up the lease process generally for these type of cases. An experienced Judge/Valuer will also be dealing with this matter, unlike in all cases now which should lead to more consistency. If rent is the only issue in dispute then the Tribunal may dispense with the need for a hearing all together, and deal with the case on paper.
Currently parties tend to avoid if they can, issuing unopposed lease renewal proceedings to save costs, but the new process may encourage both Landlords and Tenants alike to issue proceedings more promptly if negotiations are stalling between the parties and to put pressure on the other side. It will be interesting to see whether in the future it is largely Landlords or Tenants who take advantage of this new process.
Our advice remains that parties should seek to agree lease terms as soon as possible and not wait until expiry of any Section 25/Section 26 Notice to avoid the costs of any Court/Tribunal proceedings.
For further information contact our Real Estate team. or