21 April, 2009
The 49th update to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) governing civil cases in England and Wales has seen a number of changes made to the way proceedings are conducted. Whilst the adjustments (which came into effect on 6 April 2009) are worthy of note for all civil practitioners and users of the civil courts, some may be of particular interest to organisations and individuals involved in a housing law and landlord and tenant context.
The changes have meant there is now a new Practice Direction which concerns the pre-action conduct of parties in all civil cases and replaces the existing protocols. This new Practice Direction is relevant to all aspects of civil litigation and as such will be of significance to those within a housing law capacity. Put simply, the new rules describe the conduct which the court will expect to take place before proceedings are commenced.
Parties should also remain aware of the ten specific pre-action protocols (of which one relates to instances of housing disrepair) and that if the dispute relates to any of these categories, then this protocol should also be followed.
Annex A to the new Practice Direction sets out detailed guidelines on the procedure which is most likely to satisfy the court in circumstances where no pre-action protocol or other formal procedure applies. The intention is for this Annex to be used as a guide for parties, including those without legal representation, in relatively straightforward cases which are unlikely to be disputed.
The general principles are that the parties to a dispute should exchange sufficient information between them about the matter to allow them to understand each other's position in order to make informed decisions about how to proceed and make appropriate attempts to resolve the matter without starting proceedings.
Alterations have also been made to Part 46 of the CPR which covers the costs of fast track cases. For claims issued on and after 6 April 2009, the financial limit for allocation to the fast track is increased from £15,000 to £25,000. Therefore, only claims exceeding this £25,000 mark can be issued in the High Court.
Arguably as important are the changes to advocate fees for such cases. These charges have now been fixed for fast track trials and accordingly, the new fee for cases between £10,000, but not more than £15,000, is £1.035. For proceedings valued in the £15,000 to £25,000 bracket, the amount is set at £1,650.
A slight change is also made to the serving of court documents in the amendments. Rule 7.4(3) of the CPR is altered to read that where the claimant serves the particulars of claim separately from the claim form, they must, within seven days of service on the defendant, file a copy of the particulars, unless where the Production Centre or Money Claim Online facilities are used. Although the change is minor, the importance of filing such documents in a timely fashion cannot be overstated.
The changes made to the CPR are to a large number of areas and because of this, it is vital that all users of civil litigation procedure know of these amendments and can act accordingly.