I was recently instructed via an advocate agency to represent a Landlord Claimant in the County Court at West Cumbria to obtain possession of a property following an expired Section 8 Notice and under Grounds 8, 10 and 11.
I received the papers and immediately, questions sprung to mind as to who was providing the instructions and after some enquiry with the agency, I found that it was not the Claimant who had provided the instructions but a company who claims they are specialists in tenant eviction. From reviewing their website, none of their staff hold any sort of legal qualifications at all and are not even regulated (not even voluntarily).
By way of background, when I normally instructed to attend such hearings, the papers I am provided normally comprises of
- Notice Seeking Possession
- Rent Schedule
- Witness Statement and/or Certificate of Service or both
- Full Copy of the tenancy agreement
- Costs Schedule (yes fixed costs can apply but not in all cases)
- Any other relevant correspondence or documents including copies of the deposit information
I am then normally fully armed to prepare myself for the hearing and obtain a possession order (I have a 100% record).
However, these papers did not include the usual documents but:
- Claim Form
- Particulars of Claim (incomplete in comparison to the norm)
- Incomplete copy of the Tenancy agreement
- Incomplete and incorrectly completed Section 8 Notice
- Rent Schedule
- Certificate of Service
- Some general correspondence (most of which was irrelevant)
I was at a loss as to the content of the documents although, I could see through the mess that had been presented to me for this hearing.
Having arranged to meet the Landlord at the hearing centre, I clarified most of my concerns with him. I also asked him how he had come to utilise the services of this firm. His answer was quite shocking. He told me that he had tried to find a local solicitor to assist him but he could not so he did a simple Google search to find the company and when he looked online for help for Landlords, he could only find help for tenants.
With him being a Litigant-in-Person, I asked him for details as to how much he paid the company to work for him (to attempt to claim his costs back) and the Landlord produced to me a receipt showing a total price of £599 (including VAT). The Landlord also told me that the price also included my attendance at the hearing but not the Court fee. So, in total for the full ‘service’, he had paid £849 for what the receipt shows as preparing the Section 8 Notice and preparing the Pleadings. Well I guess, if he had used a solicitor, he might have paid the same, perhaps less!
I asked the Landlord to produce to me the original tenancy agreement which he did so. Finally a complete copy! I also asked him to produce an up to date rent schedule which he was unable to do so.
I had what I had and armed myself as much as possible for the hearing.
Luckily, no Defendant arrived and so the on duty CAB officer was not able to assist (otherwise this would not have resulted in a possession order)
Oral evidence was given as to the arrears and the Judge was satisfied that Ground 8 had been made and granted a 14 day possession order (Luckily, he did not take any issue with the incorrectly completed Section 8 Notice). In addition, Judgment was awarded for the arrears and daily rate.
Due to the failure to plead a claim for interest, interest was not obtained (Specialists – really!)
Then came the issue of costs and I submitted that the Litigant in Person client should be able to recover his costs of the instruction of the firm and the Court Issue Fee. The Judge declined this and said that the instruction of the firm was entirely unreasonable. The Judge stated that he would award the expenses of the Claimant’s attendance only and my attendance fee. After short submissions, I was able to convince the judge to order Litigant in Person costs using the two-thirds rule on the basis of the fixed costs normally awarded for such cases. (I normally obtain most if not all of the schedule which is more than fixed costs)
And finally, without me saying anything, the Judge went on to the Claimant’s application to transfer the matter to the High Court for enforcement which was detailed in the particulars of claim (signed with a statement of truth) and said:
“The Claimant makes an application for leave to have the matter transferred to the High Court for enforcement of any possession order made by the Court pursuant to Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984 on the ground that the court’s own bailiff department is experiencing undue delay which in turn will cause the claimant to suffer further loss.”
Well who can guess the Judge’s reaction to this? He asked both myself and the Claimant to explain the comments and asked what evidence we could rely upon to show that the bailiff’s department was experiencing undue delay. He also relied upon the statement of truth that was attached to the Particulars of Claim. Neither of us could comment.
He made a point that he had checked with his bailiffs to see what their delays was and stated that he was very satisfied with how they were executing Judgments. He then stated that the application had no merit and dismissed the same.
I know in this day and age, it is difficult for Litigants (whether they are Landlords or Consumers) to find the right representation at the right price however there are much better options out there to ensure you get the right result including recovery of your costs:
- Look for a firm that is regulated (whether formally or voluntarily)
- Compare prices. Think why this unregulated firm is charging the same as a solicitor would charge?
My firm, White Collar can help you deal with your repossession matter at a more reasonable price than those rogue ‘specialist’ firms. We can also help you with your civil litigation matters and if necessary, find your a solicitor or barrister to help. In addition, we can arrange representation for you at County Court hearings all around the country.
What a beautiful picture taken today on my way to Court!