Coronavirus – Preparing for Residential Possession Proceedings post-moratorium

UPDATE 17/09/2020 - CPR 55.29(1) was amended on 22 August to extend the moratorium until 20 September 2020. This applies to both of the following:

  • Proceedings stayed immediately prior to the Rules coming into force.
  • Proceedings brought after 22 August and on or before 19 September 2020.

PD 55C will now be in force from 20 September 2020, when the stay under CPR 55.29 expires, until 28 March 2021.

This change is couple by amendment by regulation of Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which now extends notices period to 6 months for section 21 (non fault) Notices and for section 8 Notices based on rent arrears of less than 6 months'.  For Section 8 Notices with rent arrears of more than 6 months the notice period is 4 weeks.  A summary of the notice period for these and other section 8 grounds can be found here.

The Master of The Rolls Working Group has published guidance on the overall arrangements for possession proceedings once the stay lifts on 20 September. The group acknowledges the challenge affecting the legal system now with an increased demand following the stay and the forthcoming demand that will be caused by the economic consequences of the pandemic combined with reduced court capacity due to social distancing. The guidance sets out the procedure for reactivating claims previously subject to the stay and for issuing new possession claims and helpfully indicates how possession cases will be prioritised by the Court moving forward. The guide on prioritisation can be found here.

Original article

Following the introduction of Practice Direction 51Z on 27 March 2020, which initially stayed possession proceedings and enforcement proceedings by way of a writ or a warrant for possession until 25 June 2020 and was later extended to 23 August 2020 by CPR 55.29, additional transitional rules have now been introduced for residential possession claims.

The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 come into force on 23 August 2020 and will introduce a new temporary Practice Direction 55C. The Practice Direction will apply to the resumption of proceedings following lifting of the stay and to new cases issued after the stay has ceased.

The rules are designed to manage the backlog of cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the surge in proceedings which are expected once the stay is lifted.

Those pursuing residential possession claims should note the following changes:

  1. A claimant who wishes to continue the proceedings after the expiry of the stay will be required to provide a “reactivation notice” informing the court and defendant in writing, without which the case will remain dormant. This does not apply to a stayed claim brought on or after 3 August or in which a final order for possession has been made.
  2. The court must give at least 21 days' notice to the parties of any hearing following receipt of a "reactivation notice".
  3. Where the claim includes non-payment of rent, claimants must provide any relevant information as to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the defendant and their dependants.
  4. The standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing, which would usually not be more than eight weeks, is suspended.
  5. A claimant is encouraged to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing.

The Practice Direction will be in force until 28 March 2021.

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