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Tribunal is a generic term for anybody acting judicially, whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title.  Many bodies that are titled ‘tribunals’ are so described to emphasize the fact that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. Let me now breakdown the specific types of tribunals that might effect landlords in the residential rental sector.

Tribunal Types

There are two main types of tribunal:

the policy tribunal – for example, the Rent Assessment Committee;

the court-substitute tribunal – for example, The Lands Tribunal.

For policy tribunals it is important to limit appeals, since one of the main reasons for the tribunal rather than the court is to avoid legal decisions that would inevitably result from the court’s involvement.  In this respect the outcome of the tribunal is binding although it is possible for a landlord to appeal against the fact that the proper legal process were not adhered to in coming to the final decision.

Why has Tribunal use grown for landlords?

Tribunals become more popular with landlords because:

  • there has been an extension of the powers and duties of the State – e.g. in welfare, housing and tax
  • there has been a creation of rights and duties between private individuals and companies – e.g. in employment
  • administrative decisions are now more complex and too legal in nature for the departments of government, and too many in number for them to be dealt with solely by the courts – there are now more cases taken to administrative tribunals than to ordinary courts
  • tribunals are made up of experts in the field making it more efficient for them to deal with specific aspects of the law.

Tribunals are essentially courts with simplified procedure, and such differences as there are not significant in most cases.
The Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 requires reasons for decisions to be given by tribunals, and allows for appeals to the High Court from most tribunals.

The advantages and disadvantages of Tribunals for landlords

  • Low cost
  • Accessible
  • Expert knowledge of their particular subject
  • Legally qualified chairmen – helping to ensure justice is done
  • Balance
  • The no-costs rule and lack of legal aid penalise poor litigants, although they do keep costs down.
  • The procedure means that if you do not know what you are doing the tribunal will help you.
  • Tribunals’ local knowledge can be beneficial.
  • The lack of fees encourages poor applicants, although it may also result in ill-founded claims.
  • They help reduce the workload of the judiciary.
  • They reduce the workload of government departments.

The main tribunals that are relevant to landlords are:

The Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS)

The Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) is the umbrella organisation for  five regional offices called Rent Assessment Panels  providing an independent, fair and accessible tribunal service in England for settling disputes between landlord & tenant involving private rented and leasehold property. They deal with:

  • Rent Disputes
  • Leasehold disputes
  • Housing Act Appeals Applications

Rent Assessment Panels do not have the power to deal with all types of dispute about rents and leasehold matters. They are quasi-judicial bodies; which means that housing legislation has given them the powers to settle some disputes which would otherwise have to be dealt with by the Courts. They provide an easier and generally cheaper alternative to the Court system. The Panels do not charge for dealing with disputes about rents or the Right to Buy. There is a scale of fees for some, but not all types of leasehold dispute.

Rent Assessment Panels have no legal powers to become involved in disputes about commercial property.

The legislation which gives Rent Assessment Panels their powers allows them to work either as Rent Assessment Committees,  Rent Tribunals, Leasehold Valuation Tribunals or Residential Property Tribunals.

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