Possession proceedings: an update


13 October 2020

Over the last six months, residential property owners seeking possession of their properties have been faced with ever increasing numbers of obstacles, following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (CA 2020) on 26 March 2020. 

Since March, a number of amendments to the CA 2020 and the court rules relating to possession proceedings, have meant landlords need to remain on the ball with the relevant changes, to ensure that they can act quickly and effectively, when it comes to obtaining vacant possession of their property. Similarly, tenants need to be aware of what their landlord can and cannot do, under the current legislation, whilst the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

We highlight below some of the key changes affecting housing legislation and possession claims, which landlords, their agents and tenants need to be aware of. 

Notice periods 

From 29 August 2020, landlords who wish to serve notice on their tenant to vacate must ensure that they give six months’ notice. This notice period applies to both Section 21 Notices (often referred to as no fault evictions) and most Section 8 Notices (which are fault based evictions). However, there are some exceptions for to this rule, in particular: 

  • landlords will only need to give four weeks’ notice via a s.8 notice, where a tenant is in arrears of rent of more than six months, before issuing court proceedings
  • landlords will be able to issue court proceedings immediately after service of the s.8 notice, where there is evidence of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, illegal or immoral behaviour on the part of the tenant
  • landlords can give two weeks’ notice via a s.8 notice where there is evidence of rioting, false statement on the part of the tenant, or, in the cases of social housing and domestic abuse. 

In the case of Section 21 notices, the Government has extended the period in which landlords must issue proceedings, from six months to ten months from the date of service of the notice. 

Court proceedings 

All residential possession proceedings were stayed (i.e. paused) from 27 March 2020 until 20 September 2020. This means that the county courts are now dealing with a significant backlog of existing applications together with a vast number of new applications. All parties therefore need to be aware of the inevitable delay in claims being processed and listed for hearings. 

Reactivation notices 

Where a court application was issued before 27 March 2020 and was automatically stayed, as mentioned above, either party that wants their case to continue must now file a reactivation notice confirming that they wish the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred. 

Parties must include within the reactivation notice details about how the coronavirus has affected the other party and any new proposed directions must be given included within the notice. The reactivation notice needs to be filed with the court and served on the other party. The court will not take any action in relation to a stayed claim unless and until a reactivation notice is filed. 

Do note that the above advice relates to residential properties in England only. 

For more information, please contact Naomi Baker or Alice Harris in our Property Litigation Team or Ian Rattenbury or Jonathan Hulley in our Social Housing Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2020.