In January 2018 a one-year pilot scheme will be launched (postponed from 1 December 2017) for unopposed lease renewal proceedings issued at the County Court at Central London (CLCC). The scheme will transfer unopposed lease renewals from the CLCC to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT).
What does the scheme aim to do?
The pilot has been launched to speed up process on unopposed lease renewals and to provide a final determination as easily and as quickly as possible. Apart from the option for the parties to agree to an initial three-month stay at the start of proceedings (to refer the matter to PACT or mediation), standard directions will apply in all cases. The standard directions produced on the scheme will progress the case to trial within 20 weeks with a tribunal valuer sitting with the tribunal judge at the trial.
How does the scheme differ from the current process?
- No extensions to the directions can be agreed between the parties (other than the initial three-month stay referral period).
- There will be no case management conference.
- There is no provision for disclosure, witness statements or Scott schedules (schedules of disputed terms).
- The tenant has only one chance to comment on the draft lease.
- The expert valuers must gather their valuation evidence at an early stage and before the terms of the lease have been agreed.
- The case will be listed for trial from just 12 weeks after the directions are issued.
What powers will the FTT have?
The Civil Procedure Rules will continue to apply to the proceedings.
The judges of the FTT will have the same powers as judges of the County Court, including the power to award costs.
What effect will this have on the process going forward?
It is likely that parties will submit a draft lease and commence negotiations to try to agree the heads of terms (other than the rent) prior to issuing proceedings. There is a need for speed once the claim is issued.
There may be greater use of the parties agreeing to extend the statutory deadline for issuing proceedings in the CLCC.
Delay tactics will not be tolerated under this scheme and directions will have to be complied with. Non-compliance to the standard directions may result in the case being struck out.