The Court Service has initiated a pilot scheme to introduce a more cost-effective way of dealing with unopposed lease renewals. The pilot scheme presently only relates to proceedings issued in the Central London County Court since January 2018. Proceedings which have been issued in the Central London County Court since this date will be transferred to the First Tier Tribunal Property Chamber. The idea behind the pilot scheme is to focus on negotiating terms quickly, so much so that the pilot scheme is designed to progress the case to trial within 20 weeks forcing parties into a more proactive and organised approach.
The parties have an option at the start of the process to stay proceedings for three months, if both parties agree, but strictly on condition that they use the time to go through Alternative Dispute Resolution such as PACT (Professional Arbitration on Court Terms). If the parties decide not to take this option at the beginning it is only under exceptional circumstances that they can refer the matter to PACT further down the line.
The usual directions for disclosure and witness statements and the preparation of Scott Schedules will no longer apply which significantly reduces the chance of parties dragging their heels. The concern behind this is that parties disputing more legal issues than anticipated might not have the chance to explain the position if this evidence is not allowed to be brought forward. Under the new scheme, experts are brought in very early on in the case to exchange evidence while the draft lease is being negotiated. If the case reaches trial, the matter will be heard by a Tribunal Judge along with the assistance of a Tribunal Valuer. This is a major benefit as it ensures that determination of the dispute is by a Judge and a Valuer with in-depth knowledge of property matters.
There are some concerns that the fast paced nature of the pilot scheme will not give parties enough time to negotiate effectively and a tight timetable means that drafts cannot continuously go back and forth. The pilot scheme is set to last until December 2018 when it will be reviewed. If it is proved successful, it could extend to other County Courts meaning this could be a permanent procedure.
Should you have any questions then please feel free to contact Tracey Taylor (email@example.com) or call our Commercial Litigation team on 01582 731161.