This article provides an excellent practical overview of the approach to leasehold enfranchisement during the Covid-19 lockdown period. In particular, it highlights and recommends the use of the ALEP Protocol for Service of Initial Notices and Counter-Notices During COVID-19 Pandemic.
Read ALEP protocol for service of initial notices and counter-notices here:
As the authors stress, the legal and procedural framework is changing on an almost daily basis. In particular:
- Para 4 of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) Fees Order 2013 requires fees for any application to the First-tier Tribunal to paid at the same time as the application. Failure to pay the fee at the same time arguably invalidates the application. The article anticipated amendments to para 4, which would have permitted application fees to be paid up to 28 days after an application is made to reflect guidance already publicised by the Tribunal itself. The Tribunal has chosen a different route. It will now accept payment of application fees by online bank transfer within 14 days of an application being issued. The references in the article to payment of application fees in the Tribunal have therefore been overtaken by events. For the time being, applications under LRHUDA 1993 s.24 and s.48 or LRA 1967 s.21 may indeed be made by email to any regional Tribunal office, but the application fee must be paid by bank transfer within 14 days of issue.
Since the article was written, new procedural rules have also been adopted which facilitate the hearing of First-tier Tribunal claims by audio or video proceedings: see Rule 9 of the Tribunal Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020.
- There is some indication the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) may be prepared to list remote hearings of applications in the near future, where appropriate. Indeed, the Property Chamber has already conducted one final hearing (in a non-enfranchisement matter) by video proceedings.
- The general stay on proceedings until 29 May 2020 mentioned in the article only applies to applications issued in the London Region. Arrangements made by other regional offices of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) and the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in Wales may well differ.
Mark Loveday, Tanfield Chambers.