We are currently under an extended stay on possession proceedings and enforcement of possession Orders until 23rd August 2020, due to the current pandemic. It should be noted Possession claims can still be filed with the Court, but no action will be taken and all claims will be placed on immediate stay by the Court.
Government guidance in relation to the above matters suggest that landlords do not commence with issuing claims for eviction of tenants during this period of stay, unless there is an extremely good reason for doing so. Their approach is to protect tenants from becoming homeless during this pandemic wherever possible and urges landlords to engage with the tenants regarding rent arrears. Where possible landlords should consider deferring or reducing rent and agreeing a payment schedule for repayment of rent arrears.
Tenants are still legally obliged to pay rent under the terms of their tenancy agreements wherever possible, and any rent arrears will still need to be paid, unless otherwise agreed with the landlord. Both parties should also ensure that they adhere to any agreed payment schedules for any rent arrears incurred as a result of the pandemic.
What happens once the stay is lifted on 23rd August 2020?
Once this current stay under lifts on 23rd August 2020, a new Practice Direction will immediately come into force until 28th March 2021.
The new Practice Direction 55C, relates to all claims for possession proceedings which are currently on stay. A stayed claim will be any claim which was brought on or before 22nd August 2020, including any appeals.
Any stayed claim wishing to proceed for possession must ensure that:
- A Reactivation Notice is filed and served by the Claimant, stating that they wish the claim to be either listed, relisted, heard or reheard.
- Within the Reactivation Notice they must provide an Impact Statement providing details of how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the Defendant and any dependants, including details of vulnerability, shielding issues, job issues, financial hardship incurred.
- An updated Rent Account Statement must be provided for the previous two years, where a possession claim is being brought for rent arrears (except in proceedings relating to appeal).
- The Court will give at least 21 days’ notice to both parties of any hearing proceeding in response to a Reactivation Notice.
- Any trial date for possession, set before 27th March 2020 will be vacated and stayed unless the Claimant complies with the above rules.
- Any of the above rules will not apply to any stayed claim brought on or after 3rd August 2020 or if a final Order for Possession has already been made.
What about those claims already issued and have Directions already provided by the Court?
Any stayed possession claim which was provided with Directions from the Court before 23rd August 2020 must also provide along with the Reactivation Notice and its additions:
- Copy of the last Directions Order with new dates for compliance
- A draft Order setting out any new Directions and Hearing date, or a statement in writing to say that no new Directions are required, the existing Hearing date can be met.
For any claims brought on or after 3rd August 2020 the Claimant must:
- Provide at the Hearing two copies of a Notice confirming that they have complied with the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords, detailing how they have done this (where applicable).
- Provide an Impact Statement setting out how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the Defendant and any dependants, including details of vulnerability, any shielding issues, financial hardships, job loss etc.
Automatic stays will be imposed if a Reactivation Notice is not filed by 29 January 2021 and will only be lifted by way of a formal Application to the Court. These new rules appear to impose a duty on landlords to consider the affect that Covid-19 has on their tenants’ circumstances and finances. It is therefore possible that the Court will adjourn cases or refuse to grant a possession order, if the landlord does not provide sufficient information for the Impact Statement or show a willingness to engage with the tenant with regards to rent arrears.