Housing Disrepair Fixed Costs: A Short Guide

In recent years, the issue of “Fixed Costs in Housing Disrepair” has taken centre stage in discussions within the legal community. With the impending changes to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 45.1, which were set to exclude housing disrepair claims from fixed costs reforms starting from October 2023, the legal profession is at a crossroads.

The fixed costs regime brought in in October 2023 covers a wide range of civil litigation cases, including some types of personal injury cases and clinical negligence claims. In addition to fast track cases, fixed costs also cover intermediate cases valued up to £100,000.

The general aim of using fixed recoverable costs is to provide clear and proportionate cost guidelines for all parties involved in the litigation. However, many legal professionals criticize the system due to it being restrictive to solicitors charging a fair amount for their work.

At Greener Costs, our team of Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers are highly experienced in dealing with a range of law costing services and can successfully assist clients with their costs on a range of cases. Our expertise on the extension of fixed recoverable costs ensures we can provide a high-quality service, working to help our clients receive the full amount of costs they are owed.

The Introduction of Fixed Costs in Housing Disrepair

Fixed recoverable costs have been a subject of debate and reform in recent years, with the aim of providing parties with certainty upfront regarding legal costs. While the introduction of fixed recoverable costs in personal injury claims brought about significant changes, the housing sector remains relatively untouched for now.

CPR 45.1 – The Exclusion

In October 2023, fixed costs reforms under CPR 45 came into effect. However, it’s worth noting that housing disrepair claims have been excluded from these reforms due to CPR 45.1. This decision to delay the introduction of fixed costs in housing disrepair cases has sparked numerous discussions within the legal community. It’s essential to keep in mind that although these reforms may not be immediately applicable, they are likely to be reconsidered in the coming years, as indicated by ongoing discussions from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ):

We want to reform civil justice costs because giving all parties certainty upfront will ensure no one is locked out of justice for fear of how high their legal fees might be if they lose.”

Small Claims and Fixed Costs

One of the key considerations when discussing fixed costs in housing disrepair is the applicability of small claims thresholds. Small claims procedures often involve less complex and lower-value disputes, making them subject to specific rules and limits.

It is worth noting however, that cases that have repairs actioned prior to allocation will likely find themselves being allocated to the Small Claims Track, and thereby limited their legal costs thereafter, to small claims fixed costs only thereafter pursuant to Birmingham City Council v Lee [2008] EWCA Civ 891.

Thresholds and Get-Out Clauses

In the context of housing disrepair claims, the question of whether they fall within the small claims jurisdiction or exceed the thresholds is critical. Small claims are typically subject to fixed costs, ensuring that legal costs remain proportionate to the claim’s value. However, there are exceptions, and the conduct of the parties can also play a pivotal role in determining whether fixed costs apply.

Unreasonable Conduct as a Get-Out Clause

Unreasonable conduct can be a get-out clause from the application of fixed costs. CPR rules, such as CPR 27, provide mechanisms for courts to consider whether a party’s behaviour justifies departing from fixed costs. This discretionary power allows the court to assess the circumstances and determine whether a party’s unreasonable conduct warrants a different approach to costs.

The Significance of Certainty Upfront

The planned introduction of fixed recoverable costs in housing disrepair cases aligns with wider reforms in the housing sector and the broader efforts to reform civil justice costs. Fixed costs applying to claims in housing disrepair aims to provide parties with certainty upfront, ensuring that they have a clear understanding of the potential legal costs involved in pursuing or defending a housing disrepair claim.

One of the critical considerations in the implementation of fixed costs is the impact on access to justice. While fixed costs can help control legal expenses and prevent excessive costs from deterring parties from pursuing legitimate claims, there is a need to strike a balance. Ensuring that no one is locked out of the legal process due to prohibitive costs remains a fundamental aspect of the justice system.

Part 36 Offers and Cost Implications

Parties involved in housing disrepair claims should also be mindful of Part 36 offers and their potential cost implications. Part 36 offers as part of a pre-action protocol are designed to encourage settlement and avoid court proceedings. These offers can have an impact on costs if not accepted in a timely manner. Understanding how Part 36 offers intersect with fixed costs is essential for parties seeking to manage their legal expenses effectively.

The Decision to Delay Introduction

The decision to delay the introduction of fixed costs in housing disrepair cases reflects the complexity and unique nature of these claims. Housing disrepair claims often involve vulnerable individuals or families seeking redress for substandard living conditions. The delay acknowledges the need for a more in-depth examination of the potential impact of fixed costs on access to justice in these cases.

How can Greener Costs help?

The delayed introduction of fixed costs in housing disrepair remain a topic of significant discussion and debate. Fixed recoverable costs in this area of law presents both opportunities and challenges. While it aims to provide parties with certainty upfront and aligns with wider reforms, there is a delicate balance to be struck between controlling legal costs and ensuring access to justice.

The exclusion of housing disrepair claims from fixed costs reforms, at least for the time being, demonstrates a recognition of the unique nature of these cases and the importance of thorough consideration.

Our experienced Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers are highly capable to assist with fixed costs and our clients can be assured that we use all of the tools at our disposable to ensure you receive the highest standard of advice surrounding your costs whether you are the paying party or receiving party.

In addition to our drafting services at Greener Costs, we are actively doing everything we can to ensure our business benefits the environment. We are doing this though carbon offsetting of our staff, becoming completely paperless and carbon offsetting through each instruction.

If you wish to speak to a member of the team here at Greener Costs then please contact us at 01204 263047info@greenercosts.co.uk or use the online form on our website below.

 

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