What’s the problem with representing lots of tenants?
28th February 2019
Rotenberg v Point West GR Ltd  UKUT 0068 (LC)
The Upper Tribunal has turned its attention to the tribunal rules that apply when multiple leaseholders are being represented by one law firm. The UT considered the landlord’s representatives had engaged in ‘blatant gamesmanship’ over which tenants were being represented by a firm and the refusal by the FTT to grant a s.20C order because of a lack of clarity in representation was found to be unjustified.
Rule 14 of the Tribunal Procedure Rules 2013, provides:
- A party may appoint a representative (whether legally qualified or not) to represent that party in the proceedings.
- If a party appoints a representative, that party must send or deliver to the Tribunal and to each other party written notice of the representative’s name and address.
- Anything permitted or required to be done by or provided to a party under these Rules, a practice direction or a direction may be done by or provided to the representative of that party except—
- signing a witness statement; or
- sending or delivering a notice under paragraph (2), if the representative is not a person who, for the purposes of the Legal Services Act 2007, is an authorised person in relation to an activity which constitutes the exercise of a right of audience or the conduct of litigation within the meaning of that Act.
- A person who receives due notice of the appointment of a representative—
- must thereafter provide to the representative any document which is required to be sent to the represented party, and need not provide that document to the represented party; and
- may assume that the representative is and remains authorised until receiving written notification to the contrary and an alternative address for communications from the representative or the represented party.
As the UT found, once a solicitor had notified that it was acting for leaseholders, that was enough “The tribunal trusts a representation made by a solicitor or barrister as to their appointment because of their regulated professional status, backed up by the disciplinary rules and sanctions available in the event that the expected professional standards are not met.”
As the UT recognised in this case 399 leaseholders had been joined as parties, but in the context of disputes under the 1985 Act that was not unprecedented and that “It is important that such cases do not become bogged down in unnecessary procedural complexities. Ensuring that that does not happen is the responsibility of both the FTT itself and of the parties, especially parties with professional representation.”