Patrick Brian Matier v Christchurch Gardens (Epsom) Ltd [2017] UKUT 56 (LC), 15 February 2017

In this case the Upper Tribunal considered an application for costs made under rule 13(1)(b) of the Property Chamber Rules 2013, namely on grounds that the tenant has acted unreasonably in the conduct of the proceedings. It is of particular interest because the Upper Tribunal endorsed the First Tier Tribunal’s finding of unreasonable conduct.

The First Tier Tribunal determined proceedings between the parties concerning payment of a service charge. Having secured a favourable determination, the landlord sought recovery of its costs on the basis that the tenant acted unreasonably in defending the proceedings and that his conduct during the proceedings was unreasonable, which had inevitably increased costs.

The First Tier Tribunal had found that the tenant had acted unreasonably by (i) failing to comply with the First Tier Tribunal’s directions regarding evidence and the bundle (ii) issuing disproportionate and repetitive correspondence and (iii) misguided allegations to the First Tier Tribunal of censorship of his case and alleged dishonesty of the landlord.

The Upper Tribunal agreed that even “...Making every appropriate allowance for the fact that the material he wished to rely on had been edited and organised in a way inconsistent with his wishes, he nevertheless responded in an intemperate and unjustifiably aggressive manner.” The Upper Tribunal also agreed that even though the tenant acted without legal representation the material he provided to the First Tier Tribunal “...exceeded by a considerable distance what was reasonable and proportionate to deal with the six discrete issues raised in the proceedings”.

Whilst the Upper Tribunal made clear that similar cases will turn on their facts, this case may act a useful deterrent to a vexatious litigant in person who may now be faced with an adverse costs award. That said, in must be noted that where a litigant in person acts in good faith in their defence (even if misconceived), this would rarely amount to unreasonable conduct. The case should encourage housing associations with proceedings in the tribunal against a tenant who has brought a vexation claim to be more robust on their costs.