Reactivation of Possession Claims – Landlords set to become Possessive
On 23 August 2020, The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 will come into effect.
The new rules amend the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to add a new Practice Direction 55C.
Property owners such as landlords or lenders will breathe a sigh of relief, as the new regulations will end the “stay” on possession proceedings currently ordered under The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020, which suspended Part 55 Possession Applications made after 23rd March 2020.
Practice Direction 55C is a temporary measure and will remain in force until 28 March 2021 (subject to continued review during this period).
The new procedure
- Claimants will now have to serve written notice to the court and the defendant in the form of a “reactivation notice” that they wish the legal proceedings to resume once the stay period has expired;
- Claimants will be required to provide any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances to include information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and his/her dependents. This will enable the court to have regard to factors such as vulnerability, disability, and social security position of the defendant, and those who are “shielding”;
- The court will set a date either on issue of the Reactivation Notice or on issue of a new claim (so that hearings may be appropriately spread out and to avoid “bunching”.
- However, the standard period of 8 weeks between the issue of a claim form and hearing, will be suspended, to allow the court to spread out hearings appropriately in particular having regard to court capacity;
- The Court will require the Claimant (where practicable to do so) to produce the full arrears history in advance of a hearing rather than on the day of the hearing.
For claims brought after 23rd August 2020, a ‘Reactivation Notice’ does not need to be filed or served, but Claimants will need to set out their knowledge as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant(s) and their dependents.
The new rules are intended not only to protect the public but to manage the court’s case management capabilities so that the court can act and deal adequately with concerns addressed by landlords and tenants.
Food for thought
- The aim of the legislation is in part to stem the swell of cases that have been stayed under the previous legislation. However, only time will tell if the increased disclosure requirements will shift the balance in favour of the tenant to the detriment of landlords.
- Landlords should also be aware that the court’s powers to lift the stay and to resume claims does not change the requirement to provide tenants at least 3-months’ notice when serving a section 21 or section 8 notice, which will continue to have effect until 30 September 2020.
- Landlords should expect possession claims to take longer and should consider whether they can agree a compromise with their tenants.
- If you are considering repossessing your property, or your application has been stayed, it is critically important that you serve the correct documentation that is required by the court.
- Failure to do so is likely to lead to further adjournments and have a detrimental effect on cashflow.
For further information and advice, please contact Daniel Pritchard at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on 0116 2999 199 to speak with a member of our litigation and dispute resolution team.