Unusually for a hardened litigator, this is not a case that I am seeking to litigate nor win. I thought however that it would be interesting for you to read about my experiences of the FtT, the County Court and the changes that I have seen over the years.
When I started off life as a trainee solicitor in the West End nearly 15 years ago, much of my time was spent rushing off to a County Court to have a claim issued or an application listed for hearing. At that time, we simply turned up at the Court and had an application or claim issued whilst we waited. Although this involved spending a bit of time in a queue, it got done quickly and, I could walk away with my issued Claim Form and Response Pack in hand, ready to get on with the good fight.
Times started to change when we were asked to drop off documents to be issued and pick them up the next day. We were however still provided with direct dial telephone numbers for the issue and listing clerks and would usually be able to speak with someone without too much trouble.
Fast forward 15 years, and we are now in the position where counter-appointments are available for limited urgent matters only, drop-boxes are provided and we are usually only able to telephone an enquiry line, who have no involvement in the case and can only see what is on the screen. Unfortunately due to the County Courts being overwhelmed with cases, things are not as fast paced as they used to be. Where does that leave us if we need to get things done quickly? Perhaps the FtT, Property Chamber could be the better venue in certain situations.
As many landlords of long residential leases will know, in order to forfeit the lease for breaches other than rent, a determination that the lease has indeed been breached is required before a Section 146 Notice threatening forfeiture can be served. That determination can be satisfied by a declaration of the County Court or an Order by the FtT but, which should you choose?
If the County Court procedure is adopted, not only would there necessarily be some delay in the issuing of the Claim, it would be a Part 7 Claim including a claim for damages, meaning that the Defendant could have up to 28 days to defend and thereafter we would need to wait for a CMC or directions to be agreed/approved by the Court. Eventually the matter will reach a final hearing the exchange of evidence, perhaps in six months’ time.
By recent experience however, the FtT procedure is far more fast-paced. We got from issue to directions in two days, with a final hearing listed to take place within less than two months from the date of issue. Not only are the directions more streamlined, the issue fee is lower and we can even speak with the case officer assigned to the case.
Assuming you are willing not to seek damages at the first round of litigation in this type of case, and the recovery of costs is not of particular concern, perhaps the FtT is the way to go. It does seem to me to be a pleasant reminder of how things used to be when I started off life as a trainee running off to Court with my bundle of papers.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.