Update – clause 24 Judicial Review campaign

by Chris Cooper

22:32 PM, 15th May 2016
About 2 years ago

Update – clause 24 Judicial Review campaign

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Update – clause 24 Judicial Review campaign

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We are currently processing all ticket requests for the Tenant Tax Summit on June 9th and you should have started receiving email registration details if you have pledged the minimum £100 required and emailed us to claim your ticket.

IMPORTANT: Please remember that you must email info@tenanttax.co.uk with a copy of your pledge receipt to claim your ticket(s) as this is the way we have opted to make rewards available.

We hit the initial £50,000 funding target in just under two weeks and have now pushed past £60,000. As expected, donations have slowed down recently, but this is understandable given that many people are waiting to hear the court’s decision. Our legal team has informed us that the court decision is expected within the next three weeks, so we should have a lot more to report on and discuss at the Summit.

In the meantime, we want to share more information about the event, fundraising efforts, PR activity and as much detail about the legal case as we can without waiving our legal Privilege.

Here are the contents of this update:

  1. Tenant Tax Summit – event update 
  2. Fundraising efforts
  3. PR, advocacy, awareness and engagement
  4. Judicial Review progress report – legal case to date and cost breakdown

Tenant Tax Summit – event update

Preparations for the event are well underway and the agenda is currently being drafted. Up to date speaker profiles can be found on the website, and an agenda will be added shortly – www.tenanttax.co.uk.

We are delighted to announce that the latest speaker confirmed is David Smith, Policy Director at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA). He will be presenting on actions taken by the RLA to date in terms of lobbying and their broad range of actions surrounding Section 24.

We’re also working with the RLA on some research, the results of which we hope to share at the Summit.

SpareRoom is also carrying out some research amongst its users on our behalf and Matt Hutchinson’s presentation at the event will highlight the various views and opinions that tenants have about the impact of this Tenant Tax.

Fundraising efforts

We are grateful to everyone who has pledged towards this legal fight so far. Over 1,000 people have donated more than £100,000 in only three weeks. It should be remembered that we were not able to keep the funding process open indefinitely because we can only responsibly pre-fund the phases of the case as they develop.

We recognise that there are many individuals, companies and larger organisations that will be more than willing to pledge significantly towards our cause, once we have approval that we can take the legal challenge all the way to court.

So far, we have had sizeable donations from Shawbrook Bank, Belvoir Lettings, Platinum Property Partners and Humber Landlords Association.

Due to the fact that we are running a grass-roots, not-for-profit, volunteer-led campaign, we just don’t have the internal resources to reach these organisations. As a result, we have appointed a respected telemarketing agency who have been tasked with initially contacting 500 companies and organisations over the coming weeks, with the aim of securing more substantial donations.

In the main, the money raised from sponsors will be split between funding the legal case itself and supporting additional activities such as the appointment of this agency, the event and PR activity. The latter will enable us to raise even more awareness of the damaging impact the Tenant Tax will have and as a result, hopefully encourage more donations. As we are all aware, there are thousands of landlords out there who are not even aware of this tax, so raising awareness is as important as the fundraising side.

To further assist with engaging corporate sponsors and substantial individual donations, we will be hosting a VIP dinner on the evening of June 9th, right after the Tenant Tax Summit.  Further details will follow in due course.

PR, advocacy, awareness and engagement

We are very pleased to announce that we have engaged top London communications agency, Westbourne Communications, to support us in the areas of PR, advocacy, awareness, engagement and campaigning, with the goal of scrapping the Tenant Tax.

They will assist us with:

  • Campaign messaging – to ensure that we are not only reaching everyone who will be affected, including landlords and tenants, but also policy makers and Government officials.
  • Raising awareness – amongst media and the private rented sector as a whole.
  • Sourcing and mobilising potential advocates – to further increase awareness of our campaign and to raise additional funds.
  • Fundraising – garner interest from key stakeholders within the private rented sector through targeted fundraising activities.

All of these activities will support our legal challenge and fundraising efforts. They will not be funded by any donations made via the CrowdJustice platform because all of those funds will go towards the legal challenge. The funding for this new activity will come from corporate and individual donations by mutual agreement with those sponsors. We have found that a number of individuals and organisations are pleased to see that we are broadening the scope of our activities and they want to support this financially

Judicial Review progress report – legal case to date and cost breakdown

We recognise the completely legitimate desire to understand a little more about the status, next steps and financial aspect of the case. We also hope you appreciate that there is a limit to the information we are able to provide. However, we hope that the information below helps.

First fundraising phase – £50k

Our first fundraising phase enabled our legal team to carry out all the work required to make an application for a Judicial Review. This comprised several stages:

  • Preliminary discussions and initial advice about the possible legal bases for a legal claim and strategic considerations;
  • Advice on case funding options, and assistance launching our CrowdJustice fundraising appeal;
  • Detailed legal analysis of the facts and applicable law and careful review of evidence collated by the campaign team;
  • Provision of a thorough written “legal opinion” explaining the relevant law, applying that law to the facts, providing an assessment of the strength of our case, and setting out strategic points such as the judicial review procedure, timings, additional information required, and next steps;
  • Pre-action correspondence with the Government (both HMRC and the Treasury);
  • Preparing our application to court for permission to commence judicial review proceedings, which included:
    • Completing the official court claim form;
    • Drafting a document called our Detailed Statement of Facts and Grounds (which set out, essentially, our case in full);
    • Helping us to prepare and draft two witness statements that have been submitted as evidence, one of which runs to 43 pages and includes four real world examples of the effect of Section 24; and
    • Production of a file of legal authorities and a file of supporting evidence (plus additional copies for the Court and the Defendants, as required by Court rules);
  • Attending court in person to submit our application;
  • Payment of official court fees;
  • complying with court procedural rules concerning formally providing the legal papers to the other parties; and
  • A substantial amount of ad hoc advice by email, phone and in person throughout the process.

Current and future fundraising

Our current total fundraising target has been calculated to cover us through to a High Court ruling on the case. It is based on an estimate from our legal team, which is just that – an estimate – so it is subject to change. The estimate covers various steps in proceedings, including some that may not be required, in which case the fundraising target may be revised downwards. We will be keeping incurred and future fees and other costs under careful review as the case progresses.

Work already completed

The Government responded to our application by filing an Acknowledgement of Service, which stated that the Government would contest our claim in its entirety and set out its case. The Government is using HMRC’s own Government lawyers as well as three barristers, one of whom is a QC. There was nothing surprising in the Government’s response, and it did not alter our case.
Together with our legal team, we carefully reviewed the Government’s response and submitted a further legal document, called our “Reply”, which corrected and disputed various points made by the Government.

Throughout, our legal team has liaised with the Government and the Court as required.

Current Status

We are currently waiting for our application – and the further filings from the Government and from us – to be considered by a judge at the High Court who will decide whether to grant us permission to continue with our judicial review; this permission could be granted either on the basis of the papers filed, or after a short hearing in Court. Or, of course, permission might be denied. To get permission, we only need persuade the judge that we have an “arguable” case, which is a relatively low hurdle to clear. Based on advice from our legal team, we hope to hear from the Court in May and we expect to be granted permission.

Naturally, though, this cannot be guaranteed. If permission is declined even after an oral hearing, we would have to appeal to the Court of Appeal to keep the case alive.

Future work

The fundraising target is calculated to cover the following:

  • Preparing for and attending a permission hearing, if one is required by the Court;
  • Preparing for and attending a substantive hearing or hearings at the High Court, which will likely last 2-3 days in total;
  • A possible “reference” to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, if the English High Court decides this is necessary to determine a question or questions of EU law (i.e. on State aid).  How complicated, slow and costly this would prove will depend on the question(s) asked of the EU Court of Justice by the English High Court.  It may not be necessary for us to attend a hearing in person.

As noted above, once our legal team hears from the High Court we will have a clearer idea about the direction in which the case will proceed. We will then also have a clearer idea of the potential costs of each stage that is required, and we will keep our donor and supporters updated.

Signing Off

We hope this provides you with the appropriate additional information regarding the status of the legal case and assures you that we are doing everything we can to raise awareness of this cause and get more people behind our fight for justice.

We hope to see as many of you as possible at the Tenant Tax Summit on 9th June. If you haven’t quite pledged £100 but would still like to come, you can make additional donations of the difference to be eligible for the ticket reward. Just remember to email us when you’ve done so – info@tenanttax.co.uk.

Thank you again for your continued support, and please continue to spread the word.

https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/tenanttax/

Best regards

Steve Bolton and Chris Cooper



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