No fettering: period for appeals can be extended

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has ruled that the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) has an unfettered discretion to extend the 28-day period for appeals from financial penalties that can be imposed under the Housing Act 2004, section 249A.

In the case of Pearson v City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, the financial penalty arose because the appellant was managing a house in multiple occupation and had not obtained a licence.

The Final Notice of the financial penalty was dated 7 November 2018; as the notice itself stated, the appellant was entitled to appeal to the FTT but had to do so within 28 days. His application to the FTT was made on 25 January 2019. By a decision of 22 March 2019, the FTT made a discretionary decision to strike out the appeal, on the basis that it was out of time and that no good reason for the delay had been offered. The FTT, on 26 April 2019, refused permission to appeal.

The Upper Tribunal, on 17 June 2019, gave permission to appeal, on the basis that the appeal raised an important issue of procedure, namely whether the FTT has discretion to extend the period of 28 days in appeals from financial penalties imposed under section 249A. Permission to appeal the level of the penalty was not given.

The Upper Tribunal judge ruled that there was no issue as to whether the FTT had a discretion to extend time. Appeals from financial penalties under section 249A are governed by Schedule 13A of the Housing Act 2004, but the statute does not impose a time limit for appealing; the time limit is therefore 28 days pursuant to rule 27 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Property Chamber) Rules 2013, and, importantly, the FTT has an unfettered discretion to extend time under rule 65 of those Rules. The FTT was correct to approach the question as one of discretion but took the view that the appellant’s explanation for the delay was not a good reason.

The Upper Tribunal did not interfere with the FTT’s exercise of its discretion on procedural matters because it had not exceeded the bounds of a reasonable exercise of discretion. The appeal failed.