Quiz - how well do you understand your lease?
Understand the key things you should know about your lease. If you are a purchaser, this can help make sure your solicitor has covered all of these points and explained them clearly to you.
By Ausilia Matraxia, Legal Adviser
The procedure for making an application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) requires that a specific application form is completed then submitted to the LVT along with relevant documents (usually a copy of the lease and depending on the application, additional documentation) and a fee if one is payable.
On the application form, you will indicate whether you believe the matter can be determined on paper, whether it is simple enough to be determined on the “fast track” (where the matter will be heard within 10 weeks of the application), or on the “standard track” (where matters are more complex, and there may be a need for a pre-trial review). Where there is a hearing, a fee of £150 is payable.
The LVT will serve notice of the application on the other party known as the Respondent and on any person whom it considers likely to be significantly affected by the application, or on any person it considers appropriate. In some applications, the parties themselves must notify the respondent of any person who may be affected by the application.
If the matter proceeds via the standard track, and is complex, there may be a pre-trial review. In this case, the LVT will provide directions (a timetable) for the parties to follow, dictating when and by whom certain procedural steps (such as the exchange of information or the preparation of bundles) must be taken. The aim is to narrow down the issues to be determined. It may be possible for the parties to agree their own timetable, avoiding the need for an actual hearing for the pre-trial review.
Depending on the complexity of the case, it may be provided for in the directions that the parties complete statements of the parties’ cases. It may also propose that a Scott Schedule is prepared by the parties. This is a document indicating the issues in dispute, with a space for each of the parties’ cases, and space for the LVT to insert its own comments.
The parties will need to agree and prepare a bundle which will contain the documents on which they wish to rely, in advance of any hearing. It is common for any party represented by lawyers to be responsible for arranging the bundle and providing copies. The parties may also wish to obtain expert evidence or evidence from witnesses of fact. This will require the preparation and exchange of witness statements before a hearing. Where there is complex argument, it may also be necessary for each party to provide a skeleton argument which may well be prepared by a barrister and contain legal argument and relevant legal principles for the LVT’s consideration.
Where appropriate, the LVT may inspect the premises to which an application relates, and it may also serve a notice requiring any party to the proceedings to give the LVT information it may reasonably require. The party will have not less than 14 days from the date of service of the notice to comply, and failure to comply by the time constraints provided for within the notice, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence.
The LVT also has the power to postpone or adjourn a hearing or pre-trial review. With regard to the hearing, generally at least 21 days notice of the date is given unless the parties agree a shorter period, or there are circumstances requiring sooner determination. Hearings are in public, and the parties may either act in person or use a representative. That representative need not be a solicitor or barrister.
At the hearing, the parties will give their evidence, call witnesses and cross examine witnesses. Each party is given an opportunity to put its case before the LVT and to challenge the other party’s case. The LVT may give its decision at the end of the hearing orally, but reasons will be given in writing as soon as possible after the decision is recorded.
If a party seeks to appeal a decision, they must first seek permission to do so from the LVT within 21 days (which can be extended) of the date the reasons were given to the parties. If permission is granted, the appellant must send the written notice of appeal it receives from the LVT to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) within 28 days. If the LVT does not grant permission to appeal, the appellant may appeal directly to the Upper Tribunal within 14 days of the refusal. An appeal from the Lands Tribunal is to the Court of Appeal on limited points of law and permission to appeal must be granted first. The procedure is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules 52. The appellant must file the “appellant’s notice” within 28 days of the Lands Tribunal’s decision.