Tribunal Guidance of Resuming Internal Inspections

10:46 07 December in News & Case Studies
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First tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) Residential Property Division
Presidential Guidance for resuming internal inspections
Introduction
1. It is imperative that our processes maintain a balance between the risks to safety
caused by the Covid19 pandemic and the desirability or necessity to carry out an
internal inspection of a property in order to discharge our duty to make decisions in
accordance with the overriding objective.
2. The balance of risk will change from time to time depending upon the level of the
incidence of Coronavirus. For that reason, it is not possible to simply give a definitive
list of the criteria that will be applied in make a decision to inspect. Therefore, for
the time being, judges and members may not direct that an internal inspection will
take place unless that decision has been endorsed by your Regional Judge or one
their salaried judicial team.
3. This document sets out a proposed framework for how internal inspections may be
resumed by the Residential Property Tribunal. This guidance does not apply to
external inspections. Instead reference should be made to the principles set out in
the SPT’s Practice Direction at https://www.judiciary.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2020/06/General-Pilot-Practice-Direction-Property-InspectionAmendment-final-1-1.pdf
4. For the duration of the COVID pandemic an internal inspection will only be carried
out when we are satisfied that it is essential. This will be where we cannot deal with
the case in accordance with our overriding objectives by obtaining the information
by other means (such as photographs, use of internet mapping applications, external
inspection, remote inspection) and it is considered appropriate to do so. There may
still be cases where an internal inspection is the only way to obtain the information
but it is not considered appropriate to do so and in those cases the application may
need to be stayed.
5. This framework will be kept under review and may be amended at short notice in
line with government guidelines and regulations.
6. This framework should be read in conjunction with the government guidance – ‘
Working safely during COVID 19 in other people’s homes (latest version) workingsafely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes’
SECTION A: INSPECTION PRINCIPLES
1. Tribunals will only seek to carry out an internal inspection: where satisfied that:
(a) The case cannot be dealt with by employing alternative means such as looking at
photographs and/or videos of the condition or other relevant aspects of the
property; and
(b) That an inspection is essential to deal with the case fairly and justly and in
accordance with the overriding objective.
2. There is no right for a party to insist on an inspection being undertaken by the
tribunal – the decision will be for the tribunal which will balance the risk to safety as
a result of the Covid19 pandemic and the benefit of conducting an internal
inspection. The consideration of risk will include:
(a) Any risk to occupiers or to Tribunal judges or members in entering the property
and conducting the inspection;
(b) Any risks in travelling to the inspection
3. The decision to inspect may be made at the time of issuing directions or at any time
later in the process where it appears that an inspection is essential, as described
above.
4. Suggested wording will be provided for directions and any subsequent
correspondence to cover proposals to inspect property. If ordered, then it should be
made clear which parts of a property will be subject to an inspection. Some parts of
a building, including the common parts, may carry a lower risk than the inside area
of a flat or house.
5. Any decision to inspect must to be signed off in all cases by a Salaried Judge or
Regional Surveyor in consultation with the Tribunal Chair.
6. Inspections are generally expected to be made by one member of the Tribunal
without the parties present within the property. The manner of the inspection will
be decided at the same time as the decision to inspect. Where there is a surveyor or
EHO on the panel then they will usually carry out the inspection.
7. Inspections by parties to proceedings are outside the scope of this guidance.
SECTION B: PROCEDURE
Prior to Inspection
1. Where it has been decided in principle to carry out an inspection, initial contact with
the occupier must be made as early as possible by the case officer. This must be at
least two weeks prior to inspection. At that stage it must be established whether or
not the tenant or occupier agrees to an inspection. If so then they will be asked to
complete a risk assessment checklist.
2. A guidance note will accompany this request explaining the risk assessment checklist
and procedures to be followed on inspection. The note will explain the need for a
follow up call the day prior to the inspection to check that there have been no
material changes including whether the tenant still consents to an inspection.
3. The risk assessment checklist must be referred to the salaried Judge/Regional
Surveyor in consultation with the Tribunal Chair for a decision on inspection. The
occupier must then be informed whether or not the inspection will proceed.
4. The day before the inspection is due to take place, the occupier must be contacted
again to check that there have been no changes and that the occupier still agrees to
an inspection
5. If there are changes these must be referred to a salaried Judge/Regional Surveyor
who in consultation with the Tribunal Chair will decide whether the inspection
should proceed.
6. If the visit goes ahead the person inspecting must ensure that they have read the
papers and know what they wish to inspect, to minimise the time in the property. On
arrival at the property, the Tribunal member or members will make the final decision
on whether to proceed. A decision not to proceed does not require endorsement by
a salaried judge or Regional Surveyor.
The Inspection Process
1. Member inspecting should adhere to government guidelines and spend as little time
as necessary in the property
2. Notes and photographs may be taken where permission has been given (subject to
guidelines on data storage and use of personal information)
3. The member inspecting should share their notes, observations and photographs with
all other panel members and the photographs and observations with all parties.
4. Usually only one person is to undertake an internal inspection.
5. The member inspecting will wear a face covering.
6. Members must not inspect if they should be self-isolating under government
guidance.
7. Inspections are not to be carried out by anyone classed as ‘clinically extremely
vulnerable’ or who is not comfortable carrying out an inspection.
8. Wherever possible the occupier will be asked to vacate the property during the
inspection or remain in one room of the property.
9. The member inspecting will carry hand sanitising gel on his or her person at all times
when in the property, and use it before and after the inspection (and during the
inspection if required).
10. The occupier will be asked to open windows and doors so that the member can
avoid touching surfaces as much as possible.
11. The member inspecting will use best endeavours to comply with the requirements of
social distancing, maintaining a distance of 2 metres between any persons on the
premises, wherever practicable.
12. The inspection may be cancelled at any time if the member feels there is a risk to
themselves or to the occupier(s)
13. Any discussion (if required) should take place outside or in a well-ventilated room if
outside is not feasible
14. If No risk assessment form has been completed there should be no inspection.

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