First Tier Tribunal: guidance for users during the COVID-19 pandemic

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on 19 March 2020 the Senior President of Tribunals published two Emergency Practice Directions.  Details of those Practice Directions and the implications are dealt with in an earlier blog (available here).

Since then, specific guidance has been issued by the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for users during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time of writing this blog, the Southern and London Office are now closed.  The Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester offices are still open, but with reduced capacity for obvious reasons.

The guidance issued by the FTT describes how they plan to operate in the current challenging environment.

Here’s some of the headline points:

 

Face to Face Hearings

No face to face hearings or mediation will be conducted until further notice.

Any hearings or mediations that do convene will be carried out remotely.

Alternatively, determinations will be made on consideration of documents alone.

 

Inspections

As well as there being no face to face hearings or mediations, there will be no inspections either.

For at least six months, no inspections of premises or property will be carried out by the Tribunal.

 

Communication with the Tribunal

The guidance sets out that the Tribunal are exploring ways to continue working even if offices are shut, but acknowledges that they will not be able to provide a full service.

Users are therefore asked to communicate with the Tribunal only when it is necessary, and to use email.  The Tribunal have asked for generic email addresses to be used for future communications (even where users have the email address for a member of the Tribunal’s administrative staff).  Those email addresses are:

 

Eastern Region: rpeastern@justice.gov.uk

London Region: London.rap@justice.gov.uk

Midland Region: rpmidland@justice.gov.uk

Northern Region: rpnorthern@justice.gov.uk

Southern Region: rpsouthern@justice.gov.uk

 

Current case load

The Tribunal’s current case load falls into separate categories, and the guidance sets out how the Tribunal propose to deal with those categories.

 

Matters already listed for face to face final hearing

 All cases listed for face to face final hearing up until at least the end of May either have been (or will be) postponed.  With consent of the parties, the Tribunal may decide matters on the papers alone, or alternatively will offer a hearing using remote technology.

If paper determination or remote hearing isn’t appropriate, then the case will be re-listed for a face to face hearing although the Tribunal cannot say when that will occur.

 

Matters before the Tribunal but not yet listed for hearing

 If directions have been issued, then parties should seek to comply with those directions.

The guidance appreciates that the impact of Coronavirus on all parties may mean that there are delays in compliance.

The guidance indicates that, in due course, the Tribunal will review the directions already given and consider how to move the case onto final determination.  It’s unlikely that they will start the process of reviewing decisions for at least six weeks.

If directions haven’t already been given, then the Tribunal will either issue directions or convene a remote case management hearing (probably by telephone).

The guidance acknowledges that directions are unlikely to be issued for at least six weeks.

 

Cases where a hearing/paper consideration has already taken place

If cases have been heard and the hearing has concluded, or if matters were determined on consideration of the papers alone, then the Tribunal’s decision will be issued by post or email.

However, it is acknowledged that there may be delays in the decision being completed, or delays in the decisions being issued.

 

New applications

Any new applications should be lodged using the email address I’ve referred to above.

The application fee must still be paid by cheque or postal order.  Application fees will be accepted if they reach the Tribunal within 28 days of the application being made.

So far as urgent cases are concerned, the applications must be made by email.  The application must be marked as urgent, and the reason for urgency explained.

 

 

26 March 2020

Cassandra Zanelli

Widely recognised for her expertise in the industry, and listed among the 100 most influential people in residential leasehold management, Cass heads the team at PM Legal Services. Passionate about education and sharing knowledge, she's a regular speaker at conferences, events and seminars, having worked with leading organisations in the property management industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *

Email * Website

Comment *