The rules that govern possession claims (in Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998) are to be amended with effect from 24 August 2020 to provide for a temporary period, up until 28 March 2021.
For claimants, the following requirements will apply during the temporary period:
- the claimant must inform the court it wishes to resume stayed possession proceedings and it must also inform the defendant(s) at the same time, in a notice known as a ‘reactivation notice’. Reactivation notices can be served after 23 August 2020
- the claimant must provide (in the particulars of claim, reactivation notice or for the hearing as appropriate) any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances, including information (where known) about the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and his / her dependents, which will enable the court to have regard to the vulnerability, disability and social security position, and those who are ‘shielding’.
The powers of the court will be extended during the temporary period as follows:
- to allow it to fix a hearing date on or after issue, so that hearings can be appropriately spread and to avoid ‘bunching’
- to suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing, which usually would not be more than eight weeks, again to spread out hearings appropriately in particular having regard to court capacity
- to require a claimant so far as practicable to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at a hearing.
The lifting of the stay to possession proceedings will be welcomed by all landlords. It is vitally important for landlords to provide as much helpful information in their reactivation notices as possible; the courts are bound to expect the same and may well punish landlords who fail to comply (either by adjourning a claim at the first hearing or striking it out).
For defendants, the lifting of the stay to possession proceedings is of greater concern, but the court will be expected to ensure that personal circumstances are fully taken into consideration; with regard to discretionary possession cases, there will be considerable focus on the personal circumstances of the defendant and their family and therefore an enhanced scope to argue it isn’t reasonable to order possession.
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 July 2020.