Processing a Leasehold Dispute Application
What happens after I have sent in my application form?
Your application will be acknowledged. If you do not receive an acknowledgement within 14 days of sending it, please contact the Panel office to make sure that it has arrived. Next, your application will be checked by a clerk to ensure that you have supplied sufficient information to enable the application to proceed. If important information is missing, the clerk may write to request that you send this to the panel office. A copy of your application will then be sent to any person named as a respondent on the application form.
How will the LVT deal with my case?
The LVT can decide cases either at a hearing, where applicants, respondents and their witnesses attend to give oral evidence and to explain their case in person. Alternatively, if all the parties and the LVT agree, the case can be decided without hearing and on the basis of a consideration of documents and written representations alone. If the LVT decide that the case requires a hearing, then the application can either be dealt with on the fast track or on the standard track.
What is the difference between the fast track and the standard track?
The fast track is used for cases which are relatively straightforward. This may be because they involve a simple dispute about a limited number of issues. On the other hand the standard track may be more appropriate for a complex dispute involving a large number of issues. For example in a service charge case, the fast track may be appropriate where an application concerns the payability of two or three items from one service charge year. By contrast, the standard track would be appropriate for a case where the payability of service charge costs over a number of years for numerous items of work and services was in dispute
How quickly will a case be decided on the fast track?
The LVT aims to decide fast track cases within 10 weeks of the receipt of an application, On the application form you will be asked to indicate whether you think that it would be appropriate to have your case dealt with on the fast track. Before you give this indication please bear in mind the following considerations.
(a) If the LVT agrees to deal with the case on the fast track you will be
required to provide all relevant documents and submissions within a
short period of time. You should therefore be sure that you can be
ready to deal with the case quickly;
(b) The case will be allocated for an LVT to hear the evidence and make
decision without a pre-trial review (please see the next chapter for a
further explanation of what a pre-trial review is);
(c) When you fill in the application form you should ensure that you
indicate any dates when you or your witnesses will not be available for
hearing within the following 1 0 weeks;
(d) You will be asked to pay your hearing fee (if applicable) of E150 at an
early stage. If you do not pay the fee within 14 days, the date for
hearing will be vacated and it will not be possible to guarantee that the
application will be decided within 1 0 weeks;
(e) If the case turns out to be more complicated than first anticipated, then
it may be reallocated to the standard track.
The LVT will take your preference to have the case fast tracked into account, but this will not be decisive. The decision on tracking will be made taking into account all the relevant circumstances including any information received from the respondent.
What will happen if the case is allocated to the standard track?
If the LVT decides that your case should be dealt with on the standard track, a Chairman will look at the papers provided and will decide whether a Pre-Trial Review (PTR) is necessary. If you are invited to a PTR it is strongly recommended that you attend. If a PTR is not arranged and you feel that you would benefit from a PTR hearing, you may write to the clerk and request one.
What is a Pre-Trial Review (PTR)?
This is a short hearing which all parties should attend. It is conducted by an LVT chairman, who may sit alone, or in some cases with either one or two other members. The PTR is a relatively informal hearing to try to identify the issues in the case and to see if any part of the dispute can be resolved by agreement at that stage. It is NOT a hearing of the issues and the LVT will not make any final decision on the case. No hearing fee is payable for a PTR.
What happens at a PTR?
At the PTR the LVT will look at the application and the documents sent with it.
All parties will be given an opportunity to speak.
The purpose of the PTR is:
– 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 admissions about any part of the application. For example, a landlord may admit that part of a charge was excessive or a tenant might admit that part of a charge was reasonable. If so, it may not be necessary to go into the matters admitted any further at the hearing and time and costs may be saved. If any admissions are made, they will be recorded in writing for the LVT to use them at the hearing.
– To decide what further steps need to be taken to enable the application 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/issues.
– 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 the ground rules to enable the application to be heard in an efficient manner.
After the PTR the LVT will give directions setting out the steps to be taken by the parties to deal with the points mentioned above.
What are Directions?
Directions are the orders made by the LVT which require the parties to take specified steps to ensure that all the necessary information about an application is provided.
The most common directions are to:
- Indicate what information will be required by the LVT for the full hearing.
- Provide written statements of your case. This is a document which sets out what is in dispute and a summary of the arguments in support of your case.
- Provide the other parties to the case with copies of documents which are relevant to the dispute.
- Try to agree with the other parties which documents will be used at the hearing of the application and collate these into a bundle. If no agreement can be reached each party will be asked to produce their own bundle of documents. The pages on a bundle of documents should be numbered for ease of reference.
- Include expert evidence in a report.
- Include in appointment of manager cases a requirement that the proposed new manager attend the full hearing so that the LVT can ascertain whether he / she would be an appropriate person to appoint.
The directions will also set out a timetable for the full hearing of the application and often fixes a time for the LVT to inspect the property.
Will I need an expert to help me with my case?
This depends on the type of case. Expert evidence is sometimes needed where the dispute involves very technical matters. Experts are not always required and this is something you may wish to discuss at the PTR. If expert evidence is required then the expert will be asked to produce a report which sets out the evidence that they will give at the hearing of the application. If both parties intend to call expert evidence on a particular issue, the experts will be asked to exchange their reports and probably they will also be asked to meet before the hearing to find out if any aspects of the matter can be agreed. It may be possible to agree jointly to instruct one single independent expert.
How does the LVT set a time-table for the hearing of a case?
The LVT will give time limits for complying with the directions. At the PTR it will be possible to discuss how much time should be given for each stage of the directions. It is vital that the timetable is adhered to. Any failure to comply with the directions may prejudice a party’s case and in particular the LVT may give less weight to evidence which is late or which takes another party by surprise. At the PTR the LVT may also give a date for the final hearing of the case. In order to set a date it is necessary for an estimate to be made of how long the final hearing is likely to last.
This process is assisted if parties are able to give an indication of how many witnesses they might be calling and how long their evidence is likely to last. The LVT may also decide that an inspection of the property is necessary and if so, will also include this in the directions.
Can the date of the final hearing be changed?
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 a postponement unless a 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. If you wish to apply for a postponement you should send in a written request. You should send a copy of the request to all of the other parties to the application. You will be notified in writing whether or not a postponement has been granted.
When does the hearing fee have to be paid?
The hearing fee must be paid within 14 days of invoice. For cases on the standard track, the invoice will be sent out following directions specifying the date of hearing. If the fee remains unpaid for a further month, the application will be treated as having been withdrawn
May other parties join the application?
Other people who have an interest in the application may apply to be joined as applicants or respondents. The LVT has a discretion whether to allow parties to join in this way.
Are there any further hearings before the full hearing?
The LVT can arrange for there to be further PTR hearings. This can follow the request of one or more of the parties or because the LVT considers it necessary. In addition the LVT can arrange for there to be a preliminary hearing.
What is a preliminary hearing?
In exceptional cases, the LVT may be concerned that they do not have the power to deal with all or some of the 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 give a written decision on whether it has power to proceed and, if so, it will issue directions similar to those given at a PTR. No hearing fee is payable for a preliminary hearing.
Can I withdraw my application ?
If you are the applicant you can withdraw all or part of your application if you no longer wish to proceed. In this case you should notify the LVT in writing and you should copy your letter to all other parties.
What procedure does the LVT follow to determine cases on consideration of papers alone?
If all the parties agree and the LVT considers it to be appropriate, then cases can be determined without the need for a hearing. Paper considerations will usually be suitable for simple cases. However, there is no reason in principle why they should not also be used for more complicated cases, in particular where for example, the issues do not involve decisions on contested evidence. Where it has been directed that a case can be determined on consideration of the papers alone, the parties will be asked to provide all of the documentation by a specified date. A hearing fee is not required. An LVT will then be asked to consider the case. In some circumstances further information may be requested. Once the LVT has reached itsdetermination, a decision will be sent to the parties and the rights of appeal, set out in Part 4 of this booklet will apply to that decision.
What steps can the LVT take to decide urgent cases?
Where it is important that a case is decided as a matter of real urgency (eg. because the health, safety or welfare of a tenant is at risk), then you should notify the Panel office of the urgency and the reason for this. In exceptional circumstances the tribunal can arrange a hearing at very short notice and if necessary a decision on an application can be given within a matter of days.