There are times, no matter how much you try to resolve things yourself, where you may have to take disputes with your tenants to a housing tribunal. But how do they work, and which disputes can you take to them?
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand the ins and outs of housing tribunals.
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What is a housing tribunal?
A housing tribunal is a legal process tenants and landlords can use to resolve certain disputes that they have been unable to settle by themselves - for example, non-payment of rent, or issues with the leasehold. Housing tribunals are independent of the government and will listen to both sides before reaching a decision.
What kind of disputes are handled by housing tribunals?
Not every dispute can be settled at a housing tribunal. Among the ones they cover are: - rent increases for ‘fair’ or ‘market’ rates - leasehold disputes, such as variable service charges, recognising a tenants’ association, or management disputes - leasehold enfranchisement, such as buying the freehold for a group of flats or extending a lease - disputes about park homes, such as breach of agreement or changing the pitch fee - financial penalties - rent repayment orders - improvement notices and prohibition orders where your notice is under the Housing Act 2004 - disputes about licences for houses in multiple occupation
If things have broken down to the point where you feel the tenant needs to vacate your property, have a read of our article on how to evict a tenant
What about deposit disputes?
For landlords, one of the main concerns is often making sure you’re able to deduct enough money from a tenant’s deposit should you need to pay for any damage to your property that a tenant has caused.
Most of the time, this will go off without a hitch, but sometimes tenants will dispute your claim. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement with your tenant, then the tenancy deposit service you are using will have a process you need to go through. Like a housing tribunal, they will weigh up the evidence presented by both you and your tenant before reaching a decision. You’re not required to attend any hearings, just to submit your evidence online.
If you want to know more about deposit schemes, check out our guide to tenancy deposit protection for UK landlords.
What help can I get if I have a dispute with my tenant?
If you end up in a dispute with one of your tenants then it’s important you know what your legal options are. Both the Leasehold Advisory Service and Citizen’s Advice offer legal cousel to landlords and can help you work out the best course of action to take, or you can speak to your lawyer.
How do housing tribunals work?
Initially, you apply to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber - Residential Property), though how you go about doing so depends on where in the UK you are. Details of the forms you need to fill in and the steps you need to take are on the websites for each region of the UK:
- apply to the English housing tribunal
- apply to Residential Property Tribunal Wales
- apply to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals
- apply to the Scottish Housing and Property Chamber
Depending on what type of dispute you are hoping to settle, you will be asked to fill in the relevant form and provide supporting evidence.
Unlike with deposit disputes, you can ask for a paper decision or an oral hearing. At an oral hearing, you or your representative will need to present your case, and you may be asked questions by the other party or their representative as well as the tribunal hearing the case. Whichever you choose, you will usually receive a verdict within 6 weeks of the evidence being reviewed.
What if I’m unhappy with the decision?
If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the housing tribunal, then you have 28 days to ask for permission to appeal. If permission is granted, your case will be taken to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).
If you’re unhappy with the quality of service you received during the tribunal, you can contact the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to lodge a complaint.
Have you had to take a dispute to a housing tribunal? Tell us about your experience in the comments