The First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) provides landlords and tenants, or freeholders and leaseholders, a means to resolve property-related disputes if other forms of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation have failed.
What types of issues can be brought to the First-Tier Tribunal?
The First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) hears disputes relating to a wide variety of issues, mainly relating to residential and agricultural tenancies, and land registration.
Residential tenancy matters include those relating to:
- rent, for example what is a fair or market-rate rent increase
- tenants fees
- leaseholds, for example what are fair variable service charges, how to resolve a tenant-management dispute
- leasehold enfranchisement
- park homes, for example, when lease terms are breached
- financial penalties under tenancy agreements
- rent repayment orders
- improvement notices, prohibition orders and demolition orders
- licences of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
- refusals of the right to buy a council home
- recognition of a Tenants Association
Land registration matters include:
- changes to the Land Register
- applications to correct documents relating to register land
Agricultural land matters include:
- disputes between tenants and landlords concerning rules about types of farming tenancies
- drainage disputes between neighbours
New applications to the FTT
To apply for a hearing at the FTT, you must complete the form most relevant to your dispute.
An initial application fee must also be paid, and if there is a hearing, a hearing fee is payable. People on low incomes may obtain a reduction in fees. See our article on help with tribunal fees.
The Tribunal may request additional information from either party before making a decision as to whether to hear a particular case. Applying isn’t enough to guarantee that your case will be heard.
Some cases can be decided by the FTT without needing to be heard. These decisions are based on the weight of evidence presented in the application, and are known as 'paper decisions'. A paper decision is usually reached within 6 weeks of the application being received.
Oral (public) hearings can usually still be requested.
If an oral hearing takes place, it is usual for the applicant or his or her lawyer to make the case. However, a friend or family member may also do so (for example, where the applicant feels vulnerable).
The panel of the FTT may ask questions, and each party has the opportunity to do so to the other as well.
Once the hearing has concluded, a decision is usually reached within 6 weeks.
If either party is unhappy with a decision of the FTT, he or she can appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) within 28 days of the decision being announced.
In a Court, usually the losing party pays the costs of the winner. However, in hearings of the FTT, both parties bear their own costs, regardless of the outcome.
The costs of taking a case to the FTT depend on the complexity of the matter.
The FTT may award costs in certain circumstances though:
Wasted costs arise where one party has sought to increase the costs of the other unreasonably, for example, by insisting on an oral hearing when a paper decision could be made.
Other unreasonable behaviour
If the conduct of one party is unreasonable, whether in bringing or defending or conducting an application, that party may be ordered to pay the costs of the other.
Where costs might be recovered otherwise
A landlord can write into the lease (tenancy agreement) that he or she can recover costs relating to disputes by increasing a service charge payable by the tenant. Of course, the tenant may claim that these are unfair – the FTT usually makes a decision about such recovery.
Likewise, statutory law might require one party to pay the costs of the other. For example, the Leasehold Reform Act 2002 states that tenants must pay landlord’s costs in respect of extending a lease on a leasehold property.