The stay on all possession proceedings, whether commercial or residential, imposed by the new CPR Practice Direction 51Z was due to end on 23 August 2020. In a last minute U-turn this afternoon, ministers have agreed to extend what amounted to an eviction ban by 4 weeks. This means that new possession proceedings cannot commence and ongoing procession proceedings cannot continue until 20 September 2020.
The provisions on possession proceedings in the Civil Procedure Rules under CPR 55.29 have yet to be amended to reflect this extension.
Whenever the stay is eventually lifted, it is clear that it will be more difficult for a landlord to regain possession of any property, but in particular any residential property, for the foreseeable future. The County Courts which deal with this type of case are already inundated and when the stay does come to an end these courts are likely to become overwhelmed. This means possession proceedings are likely to take many months before reaching the hearing at which the possession order is made.
When the stay does come to an end, landlords with ongoing possession proceedings will need to ensure they follow the new Practice Direction 55C in the Civil Procedure Rules, which provides that in order to continue a stayed claim that was issued prior to 23 August 2020, Claimants will need to serve a “reactivation notice”.
The reactivation notice must:-
(a) confirm that the party filing and serving it wishes the case to be listed,
relisted, heard or referred; and
(b) except in proceedings relating to an appeal, set out what knowledge that
party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and
In addition, where the claim is in relation to arrears of rent, the Claimant must provide an updated rent account for the previous two years at the same time as the reactivation notice.
If no reactivation notice is received by 4pm 29 January 2021, the claim will automatically be stayed.
Note however that Practice Direction 55C states that the requirement to file and serve a reactivation notice does not apply to claims in which a final order for possession has already been made.
This means that those landlords holding possession orders they have been prevented from enforcing are likely to enforce them as soon as the stay is lifted.
For new possession claims brought after 20 September 2020 landlords will need to set out their knowledge of the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on their tenant and any dependants.
Residential tenants are assisted further by the Coronavirus Act 2020, which provides that until 30 September 2020 landlords who want to evict a tenant are required to give three months’ notice, which is significantly longer than the notice periods required prior to Covid-19.
In addition, home owners facing possession proceedings by mortgage companies are assisted by guidance issued by the FCA, which states that possession proceedings should not be recommenced by its members until 31 October 2020, and warns that it will not hesitate to take action against any member which contravenes its guidance.
Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.
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