A statement made by the Master of Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, on 3 November 2021 has confirmed that the “overall arrangements for possession proceedings” which came into effect in September 2020 following the general stay in possession proceedings came to an end on 1 November 2021. The statement can be viewed here.
The statement provides that the “Overall Arrangements for possession proceedings” published on 17 September 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end on 1 November 2021. Therefore, for all possession claims now being issued it is a return to the pre-pandemic Civil Procedure Rules set out under Part 55 and the various Practice Directions that add detail to those rules.
This means that the requirement to have a ‘review’ prior to the listing of a substantive hearing is no longer required.
How this will work in practice for existing possession claims remains to be seen. The Overall Arrangements provided an altered system for possession proceedings to include a “review hearing” prior to the listing of a substantive hearing. Also in place were various other procedural requirements and prioritisation of certain kinds of possession hearing (most commonly substantial rent arrears or trespass). Whilst these requirements have now gone, it is not clear how cases already in the system waiting a review hearing will be dealt with by the courts, for example; will proceedings listed for a review hearing have that hearing vacated and skip straight through to a substantive hearing?
It is worth remembering that not all of the changes made in response to coronavirus are being removed, the additions to the CPR such as Practice Direction 55C remain in force, although it is possible they will also be removed. This is of course predicated on England and Wales continuing to emerge from the pandemic in a safe and effective manner.
As previously eluded to, it is not clear how this change will actually effect the daily management of possession claims, and whether the listing of matters will return to be purview of the designated civil judges who can make decisions based on local conditions. This may mean a return to block listing to help get through the substantial backlog which has built up. Such a change could see Registered Providers and local authorities having multiple cases brought forward and evidence needing to be produced under tight deadlines.
How can Birketts help?
Birketts have a specialist team of housing management lawyers to ensure our clients stay ahead and progress to the next level. Our expert lawyers can advise on all aspects of housing and asset management from complex ASB claims, Equality Act defences, building safety issues, defending disrepair claims and EPA prosecutions, subletting and housing fraud cases, service charge disputes, s.20 consultation issues, and applications to vary defective leases, to name but a few of the issues we can assist with. Our experts have decades of experience acting for Registered Providers and local authorities and offer a truly ‘one-stop shop’ for the issues facing the sector.
If you have any queries regarding the content of this article or wish to discuss any issue regarding the management of your tenants or stock, please contact Clive Adams, Jonathan Hulley or any member of the Social Housing Team, to see how Birketts can help you.
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 November 2021.