I blogged last month about my initial thoughts on the new(ish) First-Tier Housing Tribunal for Scotland (“the Tribunal”). That blog highlighted some initial concerns that I had with regards to the Tribunal and its efficiency; it seemed slow and unresponsive to any queries directed towards it.
I have now dealt with 3 Applications which have come to the end of the process. I am afraid to say that my concerns with regards to delays have been borne out in practice. In almost every case, it takes the Tribunal 2-3 weeks to write out advising that they have fixed a Case Management Discussion Hearing. Those Hearings are being fixed 2 to 3 months from the date of the Application being sent to them. This is not fast. This is very much in line with the timescales encountered with the old Summary Cause Procedure.
It gets worse. The Tribunal appear happy to latterly discharge Case Management Discussion Hearings upon a request from the Respondents, without any recourse to the Applicants. Now don’t get me wrong, whilst I appreciate in many cases the requests will be genuine, we all know that a proportion of such requests will simply be a delaying tactic.
This is concerning. An already lengthy process is being lengthened even further without any feedback being sought from the innocent party here, the Applicant. Further, it is taking the Tribunal 4-5 weeks to issue details of the rescheduled Case Management Discussion Hearing. That is, it is taking them 5 weeks to issue the letter advising of the forthcoming Hearing, not that the Hearing itself is being scheduled 5 weeks thereafter. If only that were the case.
The unnecessary delays do not end at the Case Management Discussion Hearings. If you are lucky enough to have your Case Management Discussion Hearing proceed on its designated date, you will hopefully be granted an Order allowing you to recover possession of your client’s property. However, further delays are lying in wait for you.
Specifically, Section 43 of the Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2013 states that a decision of the Tribunal system (i.e. an Order for Repossession) cannot be enforced for 30 days after the relevant date. The problem being, though, that the 30 day period does not begin on the date of the Decision; it runs from the date that the Tribunal decided to serve a copy of its Decision upon the Respondents. That’s the “relevant date”.
In a recent case of ours a Decision allowing recovery of possession was granted on 7th March 2018. The Decision itself was signed on that date but it was not issued to ourselves or the Respondent until 3rd April 2018. That is, a full 4 weeks after the Decision itself was made. As a result, and for no apparent reason, a further 4 week period had been lost.
Please don’t get me wrong. The system itself I think could work very well, but it could work much faster. Unconscionable delays are being encountered at almost every step in the Application process. These delays are only going to cause prejudice to one party; the landlord. That is, the landlord who is paying his Solicitor to deal with the Application, and who will not be awarded any expenses for his troubles.
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The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.