GOOD NEWS FOR LANDLORDS AS POSSESSION CLAIMS RETURN

As Landlords will be all too familiar with, due to the effects of Covid-19, the Government imposed a moratorium on all possession matters.

The Government announced the suspension in March 2020 for an initial period up to 25 June 2020. This was subsequently extended to 23 August 2020 together with a new Practice Direction (“the New PD”) 55C to the Civil Procedure Rules to assist with the same.

The new Practice Direction was published on 21 July 2020 and had effect from 23 August 2020 until 28 March 2021 (unless extended further). So what does this mean for Landlord’s seeking recovery of their properties from defaulting tenants?

Timescales for Listing

In pre-Covid-19 times, the Court was under a duty to list possession claims for a hearing within 8 weeks of issue. This requirement has now been suspended up to 28 March 2021. Therefore it is likely that the period in which it takes to list the matter will be somewhat longer. Presumably, this is to deal with the backlog of possession proceedings from March 2020 and to assist Courts in socially distancing when the matters are brought before the Court.

Cases issued pre-August 2020

If your possession claim was issued before 3 August 2020, the claim will be automatically stayed. In order to lift this automatic stay, which will remain in place until 28 March 2021 unless you do not, you are required to file a reactivation notice notifying the Court of the claimant’s wish for the case to be listed. The content of this notice is set out at paragraph 2.3 of the New PD which confirms:

  • the party filing and serving the notice wishes the case to be listed; and
  • sets out what knowledge the landlord has about the effect Covid-19 has had on the tenants and their dependents.

In addition, if the possession is sought on the basis of rent arrears, a rent schedule for the previous 2 years must also be served.

If case management directions had been made before the stay, a landlord is also required to file the following:

  • a copy of the previous directions with new proposed dates for compliance together with a draft order; or a statement that new directions are required; and
  • a statement setting out whether the case is suitable for hearing by video or audio link.

The above does not relate to matters where final possession orders have already been granted. The guidance is also silent on how this works with Possession Claims Online.

Claim issued post-August 2020

Claims brought after August 2020 do not require a reactivation notice as the automatic stay does not apply. There is however a requirement to serve a notice (with the Claim Form in accelerated possession claims) demonstrating what knowledge the landlord has about the effect of Covid-19 on the tenant’s circumstances and those of their dependents.

As such, and whilst there remains additional conditions in place whilst the pandemic continues, possession claims will now be listed for a hearing to recover possession which is certainly good news to landlords with problem tenants.

As can be seen from the above, Landlords require specialist legal advice to recover property from defaulting tenants. Our specialist lawyers are able to assist. Any Landlord requiring advice should contact Scott Cable, Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution Department.

 

 

 

September 2020