This month has seen a number of significant changes to social housing litigation introduced by the Government. These changes see newly-amended prescribed forms for certain forms of prescribed notice under the Housing Act 1988 and a dramatic and, given the forthcoming reduction in social rents, unwelcome rise in court fees for possession proceedings.
NEW PRESCRIBED FORMS
As some may remember, a number of forms and notices used regularly in the management of assured and assured shorthold tenancies were amended in April 2015 to reflect changes to housing legislation, including the introduction of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on 6 April 2015. However, those prescribed forms turned out to be unsatisfactory and contain several inaccuracies. This has led to new regulations being pushed through to provide new forms for certain notices that are commonly used by social landlords under the Housing Act 1988.
The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 will come into force on 6 April 2016. From that date, every Notice of Seeking Possession under Section 8 of the Act must follow the prescribed form in order to be valid.
New prescribed forms of Section 13 notices for statutory rent increases are also now introduced and again, the new forms must be used from 6 April.
Landlords should take action now to make sure that your precedents are updated so that from 6 April 2016 these notices follow the new form. Any notices that are not served in the correct form are at risk of being found to be invalid.
The content of the new prescribed forms is provided in the statutory instrument which can be accessed here.
After further public consultation, it has been decided that court fees will increase across the board. This rise was introduced on 21 March 2016 and details of the new fees can be found in full here.
Some of the key increases are as follows:-
- The issue fee for a claim for possession has increased from £280 to £355;
- The issue fee using the Possession Claims Online (PCOL) service remains cheaper but has increased to £325; and
- A further increase to fees in small claims, such as those made by landlords against former tenants with rent arrears or fees for leasehold service charge debt recovery.
It will be essential that the new fees are paid in order for landlords to avoid delays due to claims or applications being rejected because the incorrect fee has been paid.