On the 1st July 2013, the seven agricultural land tribunals (ALTs) in England ceased to exist under the Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2013 and were replaced by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).
Agricultural lawyer, Alistair Millar at Tallents in Southwell explains the key changes that will affect the on going process for landlords/tenants and land drainage disputes.
Although these specialist agricultural tribunals are not widely known of outside the farming community, they have provided a vital service in settling various disputes, including those regarding land drainage under the Land Drainage Act 1991, and disputes between landlords and tenants under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.
Now the government has decided to bring all the ALTs together under one umbrella tribunal – the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) to try and streamline the process and create cost-efficiencies.
What other changes have been made?
The majority of rules and procedures will remain the same under the new tribunal.
However, perhaps the most significant amendment to the rules is the lifting of the cap on the recovery of costs. Although in agricultural and drainage disputes each party pays their own costs, the tribunal could order either party to pay costs if it was felt that one party had acted unreasonably in bringing, defending or conducting proceedings, or had failed to comply with tribunal directions. Previously the costs were limited to a maximum of £500, but there is now a potential for unlimited costs to be payable.
Another change allows for a party to appoint a representative, legally qualified or not, to act on their behalf. It will also be possible for disputing parties to opt for a paper determination to save costs on an oral hearing.
These changes will not apply to cases that are already in the system, only to cases made after 1st July 2013.
Approximately 12,000 matters are brought before the tribunals each year, and the case can be delayed if procedures are not followed correctly. If you are involved in bringing or defending an application to the tribunal, then our experienced solicitors can give you advice on how best to proceed.