The claim form has been signed by the letting agent
This is one of the most common reasons for claims for possession being chucked out by the court.
Issuing court proceedings, any type of court proceedings, is a very serious matter.
It is serious for the defendant, as if they lose they will be liable for whatever the claim is – a money judgement which will affect their credit rating, a possession order which will make them homeless, or maybe they will be ordered to do or not do something else by the court (and be put in prison if they don’t obey).
It is also a very serious matter for the claimant. Why? Because it could, if it goes wrong, cost him a lot of money.
Issuing a court claim is not the same as winning it.
Many claims fail.
In our system when a party to a claim loses, the court will generally order him to pay the losing parties legal costs. If the defendant has not responded to the claim this may be nothing.
However if the defendant has employed solicitors to represent him the cost could be quite expensive. Particularly if there has been a hearing.
The obvious solution, if you have issued proceedings, maybe in a gung ho manner, only to find that you have made a mistake, is to cancel them. However you may not be able to do this.
The other side may have put in a ‘counter claim’. If you withdraw your claim this will not affect the counter claim which will carry on.
Even if there is no counter claim, it is often unwise to just withdraw your proceedings as this means that automatically the other side has the right to bring a claim for their legal costs.
Issuing proceedings is like catching a train – if you find it is not the right train you may not be able to get off.
It is because a claimant is potentially making himself liable in this way, that there are strict rules about who can authorise proceedings. Every claim form has to be supported by a ‘statement of truth’. This can ONLY be signed by either the claimant himself, OR his solicitor.
Otherwise, you could find yourself caught up in a claim which has been improperly drafted, which will cost you a lot of money to extricate yourself from, without your knowledge or consent.
Letting agents, many of whom are fairly ignorant of court proceedings, often do not understand this. Left in charge of managing the property, it is not unusual for them to issue proceedings to evict the tenant without the landlord even being aware of this.
In fact this happens so often that the Civil Procedure Rules which govern how litigation is to be conducted, specifically mention this and confirm, in the practice direction for Rules 22 (at 3.11), that this is forbidden:
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.
If you are a tenant
One of the first things you should do if you receive a claim for possession is to take a look and see who has signed it. If it is not the landlord or his solicitor you should write to the court and tell them this and ask that the claim be dismissed.