Landlords will be well aware that following Practice Direction 55Z to the Civil Procedure Rules, all possession proceedings were stayed until 23 August 2020. On Friday 17 July 2020 the rules were updated. From 23 August 2020, a new Practice Direction 55C will come into force. This will mark the end of the current stay on possession proceedings.
How will it work?
Possession claims already filled at court before 3 August 2020:
A party will have to file a “reactivation notice” to advance a stayed claim. The reactivation notice must confirm that a party wishes the case to be listed or relisted. Any notice must set out the knowledge that the party serving on it has as to the effect of the COVID – 19 pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. Where a claim is based on rent arrears, the claimant must also provide an updated rent account for the previous two years.
A court must give at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing listed or relisted in response to a reactivation notice.
Possession claims (new or stayed) after 3 August 2020:
The claimant must file a claim form under the accelerated procedure. Before a hearing, a claimant must serve and produce a notice setting out the knowledge they have as to the effect COVID – 19 has had on the defendant and their dependants. The standard eight week period between issue and hearing does not apply.
Backlog in the Court
Landlords will undoubtedly be pleased to hear the news that the cogs of the court are tentatively turning again. We can, however, expect a huge backlog of cases and only time will tell how the court will manage.
It does not come as much of a surprise that claimants will have to demonstrate their knowledge of a defendant and their dependents situation. Even with lockdown easing, there will still be many instances of people self-isolating or shielding and this will be a factor a judge will take into account before making a possession order.
There will be circumstances where a landlord genuinely does not know the circumstances of their tenants and it remains to be seen how this will play out in the courts. Demonstrating that you have made reasonable enquiries is a good start. For those landlords who are in contact with tenants, our advice is to start engaging, keep records and have that information readily available for your lawyers. This will serve you well when the time comes to initiate or reinitiate the court process.
If you need advice on the possessions process please get in contact with one of our specialist solicitors.