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Civil Procedure Rules for Landlord and Tenant

publication date: Apr 24, 2006
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Court Procedure and Forms Update

There have been a number of recent updates to the Civil Procedure Rules and to some of the forms the Courts are using. Key updates for Landlord and Tenant professionals are itemised below.

Forms:

 The N215 Certificate of Service and the N5B Claim Form for Accelerated Possession Proceedings have been modified and the new versions should be used immediately. Updated versions can be downloaded from the Courts Service website at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.

Civil Procedure Rules:

The Rules have been amended to allow for service of documents using alternatives to the Royal Mail provided they offer a next working day delivery service. However, few of the current alternative services offer this as they use the Royal Mail to provide the actual doorstep delivery service so this is unlikely to cause any changes at this time. The other key change is that the Court is demanding that any communication regarding a possession matter must include the full postcode for the premises. Most agents should not find this too onerous. Finally, a procedure by which the vast majority of hearings that do not involve the final disposal of matter will be heard by telephone has been piloted in a few Courts in Northern England. As this has proven successful it is to be introduced nationwide in a phased deployment over the course of this year.

Default charges and the OFT

The OFT has recently come down hard on credit card companies who make excessive charges to their customers when they miss a payment. The OFT said that the maximum charge they consider reasonable is £12.00 and any charge that exceeds this amount they will automatically assume is unfair and they are “likely to challenge the charge unless there are limited, exceptional business factors in play”. This does not mean that a charge that is less than £12.00 is automatically considered fair either and any charge must reflect the actual business costs of sending out default letters.

Currently this decision only applies to banks and credit card companies. However, as many agents will be aware the OFT is keeping a close eye on residential lettings and estate agents and there is little doubt that they will seek to impose similar restrictions on default charges made by these groups as well. All agents would be well advised to take a close look at any charges they make to tenants when they are late paying their rent and ensure that they can justify any charge they might make to tenants. It may also be worth reducing charges to the £12.00 level set by the OFT for banks to avoid coming to their attention in future.

by Dr David Smith, a trainee solicitor with PainSmith Solicitors. Tel: 01420 565310 or email:david@painsmith.co.uk

Full statement: www.oft.gov.uk/News/Press+releases/2006/68-o6.htp

THE DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT:

Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came into force in October 2004 and whilst estate agents are aware of the Act, their still seems to be confusion. Some are concerned about substantial costs and upheaval but those who do not comply with the law not only face the possibility of legal challenges from disabled people, but are also losing money. By not ensuring they are open to disabled people, companies are shutting their doors on potential customers.

The DDA first came into force in 1995 “to end the discrimination which many disabled people face in their everyday lives”*, since then additions to the Act have put greater pressure on companies to open their doors to the UK’s 10 million disabled people.

By October 2004 all service providers had to have made “reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.” Help is available through the Nationwide Access Register – www.directenquiries.com.