The Pre-Action Protocol for debt claims has been in force since 1 October 2017 and sets out rules to follow when any business is claiming payment of a debt from an individual. This covers a debt payable from a tenant to a landlord, whether in respect of rent or other sums due under the lease.
With regard to the meaning of “business” and “individual”, the Protocol will clearly apply to corporate landlords of residential properties. However, as the definition of “individual” includes a sole trader, it will also apply to some commercial premises depending on the identity of the tenant. Landlords, especially those with larger portfolios, are also likely to be considered as acting as a “business” for the purposes of the Protocol.
What are the changes?
Before the new Protocol came into force, a landlord would have been required to follow the much more straightforward general Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct. They could simply write to the tenant with basic details of the claim, ensuring any key documents were disclosed and considering alternative dispute resolution.