The Work of the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber
The Lands Chamber is a specialist tribunal responsible for determining many different types of dispute about land in England and Wales. As 1 of the 4 Chambers of the Upper Tribunal, it hears appeals from the decisions of specialist lower tribunals concerning land and property rights. It also determines cases which have not previously been considered by a lower tribunal, including claims for compensation for compulsory purchase of land or for damage caused by public works.
Cases heard in the Lands Chamber’s first instance jurisdictions often involve detailed expert evidence, frequently in multiple disciplines (including valuation, town planning, structural or mining engineering, quantity surveying, etc.). The more complex cases are determined by a panel comprising an Upper Tribunal Judge and an Upper Tribunal Member who is a Chartered Surveyor.
The Lands Chamber decides all appeals against decisions of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England and Wales, the Residential Property Tribunal in Wales, and the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in Wales. These appeals cover cases about:
- Leasehold enfranchisement including disputes about the price to be paid by leaseholders who want to acquire a new lease or the freehold of their house or block of flats;
- Residential property obligations including rents payable by tenants under residential tenancies, service charges payable by leaseholders for repairs, insurance or other services provided by their landlord, the right for leaseholders to manage their own building or obtain the appointment of a manager, and appeals against determination that a tenant has committed a breach of covenant;
- Housing standards including appeals against housing improvement notices served by local housing authorities, and financial penalties or rent repayment orders imposed for breaches of the law;
- Land registration, including boundary disputes, adverse possession and property fraud;
- Mobile homes, including appeals about pitch fees, utility costs, and park rules affecting homes on regulated sites
- Agricultural land, including succession to agricultural tenancies.
The Lands Chamber also determines appeals in cases about business rates. Local authorities depend on business rates as a vital source of revenue. All commercial property is valued at regular intervals by Valuation Officers, whose decisions are subject to appeal to the Valuation Tribunals for England and for Wales. Appeals from the Valuation Tribunals come to the Lands Chamber. These cases concern the value of many different types of property including shops, offices, factories, warehouses, hotels, sports stadiums, museums and power stations.
Disputes over the compensation payable to landowners whose land has been taken for public projects are resolved by the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber. Without powers of compulsory purchase, large scale public infrastructure projects would not be achievable. Compensation is also available where the value of land has been affected by public works, such as a new road or airport runway, and for damage caused by mining subsidence, or by tree preservation. Claims for compensation are usually determined by a panel comprising an Upper Tribunal Judge and an Upper Tribunal Member (a Chartered Surveyor) and often involve complex issues of both law and valuation.
The Lands Chamber is responsible for determining disputes under the new Electronic Communications Code which commenced in 2017. In 2016 it was estimated that UK telecommunications operators occupied more than 22,000 sites for masts, dishes and other equipment. A rapid expansion of telecommunications infrastructure to provide wider access for homes and businesses to full-fibre broadband networks is proposed to be achieved by the installation of apparatus at new sites and by giving operators greater rights over existing sites. Where operators are unable to agree terms with the owners of proposed new sites or the landlords of existing sites, the resulting disputes are initially referred to the Lands Chamber. Where a case raises an issue of principle about the new Code which has not previously been decided it will remain in the Lands Chamber for determination; other cases are transferred to the First-tier Tribunal, Property Chamber. More than 450 references under the new Code have been received since 2018.
Where the use of land is restricted by covenants entered into by previous buyers and sellers of the land the Lands Chamber has power to release or modify the restriction and, in appropriate cases, to award compensation for any diminution in the value of land belonging to an objector. Changes in a locality may have made a restriction obsolete, or it may no longer secure any real benefit for the person entitled to enforce it, yet it may continue to prevent development of the land from taking place. In such case the Lands Chamber is required to consider the views of objectors and to determine whether the statutory conditions for a proposed release or modification are met.
Disputes over the valuation of land or buildings for Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax purposes are referred to the Lands Chamber by Tax Tribunals.