The Social Housing Law Association: Midlands Branch , held its third, very successful event, on 20 March 2018 on the topical issue of Litigants in Person (LiP). St Ives Chambers Head of Housing, Michael Singleton, gave an informative talk about this topic as well as some helpful hints and tips.
Michael told the audience, consisting of housing professionals from leading firms and providers of social housing, that the fall over recent years in the availability of legal aid has caused a substantial increase in number of LiPs. This has meant social housing landlords and lawyers in this field need to be alert to the challenges LiPs pose.
Michael then gave his top tips, including simplifying the language used in court orders. For example, the term "file and serve" should be explained so that LiPs understand exactly what is expected of them. He also said that it is good practice to refer LiPs to any available legal advice or materials. In particular, the judiciary website has a helpful document entitled "Handbook for Litigants in Person" and LiPs should be advised that the entire Civil Procedure Rules can be found online and signposted to them.
When LiPs are given indulgences by the court it was suggested this should recorded on the face of the order. That way, Michael said, future judges will be able to see that the LiP has had a chance to comply with court directions and therefore, a judge may well be less likely to grant future indulgences. Michael reminded those attending of the benefits of civil restraint orders regarding vexatious litigants.
Ending on the topic of McKenzie Friends, Michael reiterated the limited role that such individuals can have in court and the importance of engaging mainly with the tenant during proceedings.
Our next event will be taking place on 26 June and more details will be posted on the website in due course.