Changes to the Lease Renewal Procedure

Profession:Herbert Smith
 
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New procedural rules for lease renewal under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 come into force from 15th October 2001. The existing rules have been modified to introduce a new automatic three-month stay of proceedings on the application of the landlord to facilitate negotiations. However, if a landlord does not apply for the stay a strict evidential timetable will kick-in. These two changes will lead to a different approach and you should be aware of the basic framework.

The key points are:

No change to the procedure prior to the issue of proceedings.

Time for service of the proceedings is shortened to 2 months. (This is unlikely to make much difference in practice).

The Landlord may apply within 14 days of service for a stay of the proceedings. If he does it is automatically granted for 3 months, subject to an application to lift it earlier.

Within 14 days of the end of the stay, or of receipt of the proceedings if no stay was applied for, the Landlord must file an Acknowledgement of Service.

Tenant then has 14 days to serve evidence in support.

Landlord has14 days to serve evidence, after that.

Then a full timetable is given for taking the matter for trial.

How will the stay work?

The automatic stay is new. The Woolf reforms introduced the Case Management Conference (previously a directions hearing), and it was intended that the date for this would be fixed on the issue of the claim - but this rarely happens in practice. The intention was to ensure that court proceedings would be dealt with as quickly as possible. Only the court can adjourn the Conference and whilst it has been routine for parties to write to the court seeking adjournment, the court also has to agree and the adjournment has not always been granted, leaving parties with little or no control over the timing of their application. The three-month stay is a more appropriate period that is intended and should facilitate negotiations for the lease renewal.

However, only the landlord can apply for a stay, unlike the current arrangement which allows either party to apply for an adjournment and - when an initial period is not long enough - for an extension. It remains to be seen how the court will treat applications by the tenant for a stay, or by either party/both parties for a stay of over 3 months. If a longer stay is not available, circumstances may arise where time and costs are spent preparing evidence to comply with the new evidential timetable rather than...

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