Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announces that “a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months”
On Friday 21 August 2020 Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced on twitter that “a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months”.
Landlords and Tenants will be acutely aware that the stay of possession claims was due to be lifted on Sunday 23 August 2020. Until Mr Jenrick’s tweet which came at 3:55pm on 21 August, the courts, landlords and practitioners alike were ready for possession claims to resume on Monday 24 August 2020.
Stay of Proceedings
The ‘ban on evictions’ is not a ban at all but a stay of possession proceedings which was first introduced on 27 March 2020 by Practice Direction PD51Z. The stay affected all proceedings brought under CPR Part 55 and enforcement of possession orders by warrant or writ of possession. This prevented any claim for possession of residential property from proceeding initially until 24 June 2020.
There was later clarification that the stay did not prevent possession proceedings from being issued but it has prevented most possession proceedings from progressing beyond the parties agreeing directions. On 20 April PD51Z was clarified and confirmed not to apply to:
Claims against trespassers to which CPR 55.6 applies (person unknown)
Applications for Interim Possession Orders
Applications for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties
Four cases were fast tracked to the Court of Appeal to try to avoid the stay of proceedings and clarify the extent of the stay. Those cases concluded that unless the circumstances are exceptional, the stay is inescapable. This means that most cases have not progressed at all since 27 March 2020.
Information published on Justice.gov.uk says that this was done with the intention of allowing for final preparation and procedural amendments to be made for the resumption of possession proceeding cases in the courts with a view to ensuring that the civil justice system is accessible, fair and efficient.
Progressing your claim (PD55C)
In anticipation of the stay ending on 23 August 2020, the government introduced the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 and practice direction PD55C which came into force on 24 August 2020. PD55C sets out what will need to be done to get claims up and running once the stay if lifted.
As matters stand, for stayed claims i.e., those which were issued before 3 August 2020a party will now need to serve a ‘Reactivation Notice’ which will:
Confirm that the party filing and serving it wishes the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred;
Except for appeals, set out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants; and
If the claim is based on rent arrears, you must provide an update rent account for the previous two years.
It is important to note that:
There is no prescribed form of Reactivation Notice;
The practice direction is silent upon whether the notice should include information about the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the claimant; and
There is no obligation to include a statement of truth.
PD55C is in force now, although as it was published before the stay was extended, we do expect some amendments to be made to it even if those amendments are only to the dates.
Although PD55C does not place any positive obligation on Claimants to find out the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on tenants and their dependants. Landlords should consider asking their Tenant(s) what the effect has been now so that they cannot be criticized later for not asking for information.
Good lines of communication between Landlords and Tenants are important, more so now when there is so much uncertainty.
When the court receives a Reactivation Notice it will give the parties at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing.
PD55C has also modified the normal rule which requires a hearing to take place within eight weeks of the claim being issued.
This means that hearings will take longer to be heard and when they are heard, we do not know if that will be by telephone, in person or by video link.
It is important to note that the stay continues to apply to the enforcement of possession orders. On 23 August 2020 bailiffs in England were permitted to resume enforcement actions relating to debts only. The regulations relating to the enforcement of debts do not apply to possession orders.
When the enforcement of possession claims resume, new rules mean that for both County Court and High Court evictions, a notice of eviction must be delivered to the property not less than 14 days before the writ or warrant is executed.
Landlords considering starting possession proceedings should contact Wilkin Chapman LLP.
Tom Hickingbottom 01522 515594 firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Macken 01472 253956 Olivia.Macken@wilkinchapman.co.uk