We all know, or those of us who do possession proceedings know, that only the landlord (the claimant) or his solicitor can sign the court paperwork for issuing a county court claim for possession. Claim forms being signed by letting agents is one of the top reasons why cases get chucked out by the court.
This is enshrined in the practice direction for CPR 22 (which is about statements of truth) section 3.11 which says under ‘Managing Agent’:
An agent who manages property or investments for the party cannot sign a statement of truth. It must be signed by the party or by the legal representative of the party.
But can an agent ever sign the paperwork? My original understanding used to be, no, there are no circumstances under which an agent can sign, even if he has power of attorney. Although I did not have any specific authority for this and the point bothered me.
I then had a discussion with a District Judge who rather specialises in possession claims. I asked him about this point, and he told me that persons with power of attorney *could* issue proceedings on behalf of the person they hold power or attorney for. “Otherwise” he said, “How could all those foreign landlords who live overseas, ever claim possession?”
The obvious answer is that they should use a solicitor. However I took the point, and changed my standard advice to indicate that it may be possible for someone holding power of attorney to issue proceedings.
Not having any reason to do so, I did not revisit this point until, on looking through the Housing Law Handbook in preparation for my review, I read at 6.20 (p308) that “It is clear that an agent cannot bring proceedings for a principal, even where there is a power of attorney”.
It does seem therefore that those with power of attorney, do not have an automatic right to issue proceedings by virtue of their power of attorney (which I suspect will surprise many non lawyers). However it does look as if they can bring a case with leave of the court. Maybe this is what my friend the DJ was referring to.
Do you know of any cases where the Judge allowed proceedings to continue where the statement of truth had been signed by the claimants agent under a power of attorney? Is it necessary to specifically apply for leave first? What are the criteria under which a Court will grant such an application?