Government considers increasing court costs again

Posted on Friday, February 6, 2015

The increases are being considered for all proceedings that relate to the recovery of land which are generally brought in two sets of circumstances:

  • by mortgage lenders, where the borrower has fallen into arrears on their mortgage payments; and
  • by landlords, whose tenants have fallen into arrears.

They also cover proceedings brought to evict trespassers.

The fees currently charged to commence these proceedings were last increased on 22 April 2014, and represent the average cost of providing access to the courts. The current fees are:

  • £480 to commence proceedings in the High Court;
  • £280 to commence proceedings in the County Court; and
  • £250 to commence proceedings online using the Possession Claims Online facility (PCOL).

The large majority of these proceedings are brought in the County Court. A claim for possession may only be brought in the High Court if there are exceptional circumstances, including, for example, that the case:

  • involves complicated disputes of fact; or
  • raises issues of law of wider public interest.

Practice Direction 55A of the Civil Procedure Rules provides guidance on starting possession claims.

The proposal is to increase the fees charged in County Court proceedings for the recovery of land, including proceedings initiated using PCOL, by £75. The Government estimates that this would generate an additional £17 million per annum in income.

The Government justifies the increase by stating they want to ensure the courts and tribunals are adequately funded, while at the same time reducing the cost of the courts and tribunals to the taxpayer. They state that in successful proceedings costs, including the fee, would in most cases be added to the debt to be recovered from the losing opponent. How ver they have yet to explain how the tenant that couldn't afford the rent will be able to afford the court costs ....