2.1 This is the first formal stage in processing the application. It will usually be conducted by a LVT chairman, who may sit alone or in some cases with either one or two members.
2.2 It is strongly recommended that parties attend the PTR unless it is to be conducted in writing.
2.3 The purpose of the PTR is:
- To examine the application and the documents sent with it.
- To find out whether there is any prospect that the parties can settle any of their disagreements.
- To find out whether either party is able to make any admissions about any part of the application. If so it may not be necessary to go into the matters admitted any further at the hearing and time may be saved.
- If any admissions are made to record them for the LVT to use at the hearing.
- To decide what further steps need to be taken to enable the matter to come to a hearing.
- To decide if the application can conveniently be heard in conjunction with any others that deal with the same property/matters.
- To deal with any application made by any person who wants to join in the proceedings as a further party to them.
- To set out ground rules to enable the matter to be heard in an efficient manner.
2.4 The LVT may give directions setting out the steps to be taken by the parties to deal with the points mentioned above. It will set out a timetable within which these things are to be done. The matters that may be covered under this head include:
- The provision of written statements of case.
- The exchange of copy documents and if possible the agreement and making of copies of an indexed bundle of documents to be used at the hearing.
- Identifying witnesses and producing and exchanging witness statements.
- The use of expert witnesses and the possibility of producing an agreed experts’ report where they are used.
- The scheduled date when it is intended to hold the full hearing by the LVT.
2.5 It is important to bear in mind that the PTR is a procedural hearing to try to identify the issues, not to decide them. It sets the procedures for dealing with the issues if they cannot be resolved by agreement at that stage but it is NOT a hearing of the issues themselves. That aspect is dealt with by the LVT at the full hearing.
2.6 When directions are given, it is imperative that the parties comply with them. In particular, parties should bear in mind the importance of identifying issues and of disclosing documents to the other party. Thorough preparation of an application or the response to an application can save time and difficulty at the hearing. In an extreme case the LVT may refuse to accept evidence which has not been produced until the very last minute.
2.7 A hearing before the LVT should take priority over other engagements. Once the date has been fixed and the parties notified, the LVT will not permit postponement unless very good reason has been shown. This is necessary in the interest of justice to all parties and to ensure the efficient use of resources generally. It should be noted that normally the LVT cannot be convened to consider a postponement or withdrawal request within one week of the allocated hearing date; the party or parties will have to wait and apply in person or through a representative at the start of the LVT hearing or apply in writing.
Parties are encouraged to negotiate settlements well in advance of the hearing date.
- If there is the prospect of a settlement, the clerk should be advised as soon as possible.
- Where settlement has been reached, the LVT should be notified immediately , in order to enable the date fixed for the hearing to be vacated and used by other parties.
4. Preliminary Hearings
In exceptional cases, the LVT may have concerns that they do not have power to deal with issues raised by the applicant. In such a case, a preliminary hearing will be arranged at which the parties will be given the opportunity to make representations. Following the preliminary hearing the LVT will decide whether it has power to proceed and, if so, will issue directions for the further management of the case.
The LVT may want to inspect the property to familiarise itself with it. The parties will be told at approximately what time it will attend for that purpose. The parties are entitled to attend the inspection and to draw the attention of the LVT to any aspect of the property that they wish them to see, but not to make any representations about them at that stage.
6. The Hearing
Proceedings before a LVT are orderly but informal. The Tribunal will comprise 2 or 3 members, always including a valuer. Each party will have an opportunity adequately to present his or her case. The LVT has a wide discretion as to the conduct of the proceedings and may limit, among other things, the time allowed for the submissions and examination of witnesses and the extent of the expert evidence. When a party is being represented solely by a surveyor, the Tribunal will wish to draw a clear line between advocacy and expert evidence.
The LVT will issue a document containing its decision and the reasons for it as soon as possible, usually within six weeks, after the hearing.
Any party who attended or was represented at the full LVT hearing is entitled to appeal the decision of the LVT to the Lands Tribunal provided they do so within 28 days of the issue of the decision.
The LVT has to remain independent of the parties because it has to decide the dispute between them. For this reason neither it nor its staff can advise parties about the way in which they should bring their cases. You can however obtain advice either from a solicitor, from a local Citizens Advice Bureau or from the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) at 70-74 City Road, London EC1Y 2BJ – telephone 020 7490 9580.
10. Human Rights
Parties to an application are also entitled to the benefit of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998. In effect this entitles them to have their case determined in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Of particular relevance is Article 6 of the Convention which provides that parties have the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time before an impartial tribunal. This includes their right to put their case and to question the case brought by the other party and to be given reasons for the decision of the Tribunal.
Parties may also wish to note Article 8, which provides that everyone has the right to respect for his private life, his home and his correspondence – any internal inspection of the property concerned will only be undertaken with the consent of the occupier.
In making their decisions Tribunals are obliged to have regard to the rights embodied in the Convention and where possible to interpret legislation consistently with those rights.
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