Court Fees for Possession (and Most Other Things) to Rise

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Court Fees for Possession (and Most Other Things) to Rise

The government has decided to increase a wide range of court and tribunal fees in England and Wales, including those that relate to property matters from May 2024. They have announced this in a response to a consultation held on this issue.

Landlords will find the fees for claiming possession of their property increasing by 10% to £391. If they need to instruct a bailiff to enforce a possession order this will rise by a similar 10%, to £143. Tenants will also find increases in their costs. For example, tenants seeking a rent repayment order against a landlord who has failed to obtain a property licence will see a similar 10% increase. In practice this is an increase across the board with almost all court and tribunal fees to increase.

The consultation justified the increases as necessary to allow for more investment in the courts. A small majority of respondents accepted that the increase was needed, especially as fees had remained static since 2021 but it was a common complaint that the service standards were poor in the courts and simply raising fees was not likely to deal with the problem of underinvestment. The government has not really responded to this other than to say that the fee increases are expected to raise between £30 and £37 million and that they are investing in new systems and recruiting more judges. I doubt that these statements will mollify landlords waiting three or more months for a possession hearing to be listed or waiting six months or more for a possession order to be actioned by a court bailiff.

There was also concern that the substantial 10% increase was a lot in the context of existing pressures on the public. The government has stuck with 10% and made the point that CPI has risen by over 17% since the last increase in 2021. Individual views on the reasons behind the rise in CPI are likely to affect how people feel about 10% as a lower increase!

Exceptions to the rises have occurred in the family courts and for some Upper Tribunal fees. Possibly more controversially the costs for various gambling licences, including casino and betting licences have not increased. No explanation has been provided for why the gambling industry has been excluded.

Finally, the government has now said that it will look to review court fees every two years to create a more incremental rise. They will therefore look to do so again in 2025 with a rise to come in in 2026. They have been careful to also say that they are not committing to doing this and will potentially raise fees at other intervals as necessary. None of this is binding on any future government of course.

Realistically, unless alternative funding is added direct from the Treasury it seems almost inevitable that court fees will have to rise considerably, and probably sooner that 2025/6 if the required level of investment in the courts is to happen. But it is frustrating that with so little improvement demonstrated so far the government considers it appropriate to make such a substantial increase.

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