The Coronavirus global pandemic has seen a vast amount of support and changes to a variety of sectors across the year. With around 10 million people being placed on the furlough scheme and the mortgage and stamp duty holidays boosting the property market.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the government announced support for renters in the form of an eviction ban. This legislation was put in place to prevent landlords being able to evict tenants during the pandemic. Whilst this support was welcome and vital for tenants, it has caused some expected issues and strains for residential landlords.
Since March, when the ban on evictions was imposed, this area of law has been ever changing, with legislation being extended three times before the stay in possession proceedings were finally lifted on 20 September 2020. Our litigation team has been working tirelessly to keep abreast of the constant changes and extensions to legislation, sometimes on a daily basis!
Additional measures were announced on 17th July 2020 and a new Practice Direction (PC) 55C titled ‘Coronavirus: Temporary provision in relation to possession proceedings’ came into force on 23rd August 2020. The Practice Direction supplements Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) Part 55 temporarily modified it until 28th March 2021. This sets out the procedure to be taken in relation to possession actions which have been stayed as a result of previous legislation.
Stayed claims are those claims brought on or before 22 August 2020. These are split into claims brought on or before 3 August 2020 and those brought afterwards. For the earlier stayed claims, a reactivation notice is required to be filed and served, in order for the stayed claim to be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge under CPR 55.15.
The reactivation notice must confirm that the party filing/serving it wishes the case to be listed/relisted/heard/referred and show evidence of the knowledge the pandemic has had on the defendant and their dependants. You can find the Reactivation on the government website here.
Whilst the courts are making progress dealing with the backlog in cases, there has been some uncertainty regarding enforcement of possession orders and bailiff’s appointments over Lockdown 2.0 and the Christmas period. You may have seen a letter written by Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, to the High Court Enforcement Officers Association on 21 October 2020 asking them to refrain from entering residential premises over the 2nd lockdown period. This caused some confusion for landlords. However the government has offered some welcome guidance in the form of The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 17 November 2020 and remain in force until 11 January 2021. These Regulations state that no person may attend a dwelling house for the purpose of executing a writ or warrant of possession or restitution or to deliver a notice of possession. There are however some substantive exceptions to this and the correct advice and precautions should be taken before considering the enforcement of any possession order.
With the stay on possession proceedings now having ended and restrictions lifted on 20 September 2020 and in light of the new regulations, it is a good time to take stock as to where we are now. It is important to reflect on the changes to notice periods and the court procedure as we (hopefully) move towards the end of the 2nd lockdown period.
For more information contact a member of the Litigation team today.