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When is the right time to appeal your local District Judge on rent cases?

Registered providers (RPs) across the country understand that when bringing rent cases in a local county court, or resisting numerous stay applications, District Judges often have no more than five minutes to deal with cases - and have to weigh up whether to stop rent arrears accruing unreasonably by making possession orders or trying to protect vulnerable members of society from evictions where they can be avoided. This difficult situation often leads to frustrations.

When decisions go against RP’s, they are then faced with a difficult commercial decision: whether to consider challenging the local District Judge by appealing their decision, if grounds exist, or not. When handling your own rent arrears cases, Capsticks recommends that you should work closely with local courts and Judges unless you feel that a tipping point is reached and a challenge becomes necessary.

So when is the correct time to lodge an appeal?

Case study: Selwood Housing successfully appeals county court ruling

Capsticks recently acted successfully for Selwood Housing in bringing such an appeal.
Initially Selwood Housing, as with many RP clients, represented themselves. They obtained an outright Order for Possession on a mandatory basis due to arrears of rent. The warrant was issued and a date for eviction set. The tenant applied to stay the warrant and the matter was listed for a hearing before a District Judge in the local county court.

At the hearing the District Judge applied the discretion of Section 9 of the Housing Act 1988, which applies to discretionary Orders for Possession, and proceeded to suspended the enforcement of the warrant on terms. This application of the law was challenged by the Officer who stated that the court had no power to suspend the order, as it was outright and mandatory, citing Section 89 of the Housing Act 1980 as the correct law that applied. The Judge ignored the Officer’s submissions and proceeded to suspend the warrant regardless.

After the initial court hearing Selwood Housing felt that the District Judge had applied the incorrect law and contacted Capsticks for advice. Together we considered the merits of appealing the judge’s decision taking into consideration: the commercial costs, the time it would take and the likelihood of future matters being presided by the same District Judge. A decision was made to appeal and Capsticks were instructed to progress the appeal.

Capsticks prepared the necessary paperwork quickly and efficiently: the Appellant’s Notice, Grounds for Possession and skeleton argument. These were lodged with the court swiftly and permission to appeal was granted immediately, on the papers alone. The Order for Permission commented that the appeal appeared to have a strong prospect of succeeding. The appeal was listed within eight weeks and at the appeal hearing, the Order was set aside and an Order issued to reinstate the warrant, on an expedited basis. The Appeal Judge commented that the District Judge had misapplied the law and not approached the hearing in the correct manner. Our in-house housing barrister, Simon Strelitz, conducted the appeal and ensured at every stage the court was guided to the correct law on the matter.

Appropriate times to get a legal and commercial view

Challenging your local District Judge on routine rent possession cases, as a regular court user, is a difficult decision to make. Often the timescales of appealing, or the cost, make it commercially unattractive. However if there are persistent issues with the misapplication of the law, or what are perceived as manifestly unfair decisions are being made, appealing can be the appropriate course of action.

How can Capsticks help?

Capsticks provides practical, pragmatic and commercial advice to ensure clients make informed decisions on legal queries. Our lawyers are experts in Housing Law and have insight into the challenges RP’s face when brining rent possession claims. Uniquely, we have access to an expert in-house housing barrister in Simon Strelitz who will help guide the appeal from day one and be constantly involved to ensure consistency of advocate. We act for RP’s across England and Wales, meaning we understand the regional variations and approaches taken by numerous county courts.

We offer a full range of rent possession services, from a pure advocacy-only service through to advice on precedent pleadings, the pre-action protocol, user-friendly guides on the law and presenting in court as well as intensive training courses covering all aspects of rent arrears possession claims and advocacy.

Should you require any assistance with cases similar to this please do not hesitate to contact Capsticks’ expert housing management team who would be happy to assist.

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