The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) makes decisions on various types of dispute relating to residential leasehold property. It has long been criticised for appearing to be overly tenant-friendly, and sometimes inconsistent – even somewhat wayward – in its decisions. The government’s proposed reforms therefore are likely to be welcomed by those involved in residential lease disputes – particularly from the landlord’s perspective.
The LVT procedure is less formal than that of the County Court, which is seen as more intimidating to tenants without legal representation. The fact that the LVT has limited ability to award costs makes it attractive to tenants who generally lack the resources of their landlord counterparts. The Estates Gazette has recently reported that tenants make up roughly 80% of all applicants, of which 40% are unrepresented, compared to 85% of landlords.
The informality of the LVT and its relatively relaxed rules are the main reasons why the LVT has come under fire – which is strange when it is intended to be user friendly to unrepresented parties.
The fact that ‘precedent’ convention, similar as there is in the courts, is not applied, means that decisions are not binding on future cases in the LVT. What has been of concern to the Upper Tribunal in a string of recent decisions, is the extent to which LVT raises issues not advanced by the parties in argument, such issues tending to favour tenants.
The proposed reforms should give better structure and guidance within which the LVT should operate, and are likely to take effect when the LVT disappears as part of the new Property Chamber next year.
The proposed rules, which will be akin to the Civil Procedure Rules, should give better structure and consistency of approach. There is likely to be tighter control on the preparation of cases, with sanctions for non-compliance. Surprisingly however, there are no radical changes to the rules on costs, which will remain at a low level, and fault-based.
The government’s consultation on the draft rules closed in September and its comments on the consultation are hotly anticipated.