Two recent incidents have highlighted the necessity for practitioners to be aware that our beloved Court Forms are not to be taken at face value. There may be errors and omissions on them.
The new Form 6A is a PDF form which has been designed to simplify the creation of a Section 21 notice which has to be served on tenants by a landlord seeking to recover possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.
The form is comprehensive and comes with a front page which contains guidance on completion and suitability of the form. Examination of the form reveals that the notes are not consistent with the law, implying that less than two months’ notice can be given which is incorrect. Any s.21 notice giving the tenant less than two months notice is invalid ab-initio.
Form N215 is the well known and often used Certificate of Service form provided by parties as basic evidence of service of documents in a variety of hearings. The form is a PDF form which caters for a number of methods of service.
Examination of this form reveals that there is no space for the time of service to be entered by the user under the second service option “by delivering to or leaving at a permitted place”. CPR r.6.26, however, sets out that when using this method of service the deemed date of service is on the day of delivery if the document is delivered before 16:30 or on the next business day if after 16:30. Reliance on the form as provided by HMCTS may encourage the user to fail to insert critical information which may impact their case.
In a case heard in a London area County Court recently, the failure to insert the time of delivery using this method of service meant that there was no evidence as to whether the document, in this case a s.21 notice, had been delivered before or after 16:30 and, therefore, the court had no option but to give the Defendant, who I represented, the benefit of the doubt and that meant that the document was deemed served on the next business day, being a Monday, rendering the s.21 notice invalid as then less than 2 months’ notice had been provided. The possession claim was struck out.
In short, practitioners should beware being lured into a false sense of complacency when using court forms, whether prepared by HMCTS or any other provider, without a proper understanding of the rules.