Further developments: possession claims

As previously reported on 15 June, the stay on possession proceedings imposed by CPR 55.29 will come to an end on 23 August 2020 after being put in place on 25 March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

This does not mean, however, that possession proceedings will return exactly to how they were conducted prior to Covid-19. On 23 August Practice Direction 55C will come into force. PDD 55C will apply until 28 March 2021 (with periodic reviews) and will impose different requirements depending on when possession proceedings were first issued.

For claims brought before 3 August 2020 in order to get the claim started again, one of the parties must serve a ‘reactivation notice’. This notice must state that the party wishes the case to be listed, and must set out any knowledge that the party serving the notice has of the effect that Covid-19 has had on the defendant and any of his/her dependents. Currently no guidance has been given as to how the court will use this information or how it will deal with defendant tenants who refuse to provide the information requested by the landlord and then seek to rely on it at a later date.

The claim will not be listed, heard or referred to a judge until a reactivation notice is served by one of the parties. In addition, updated rent accounts must be provided for the previous two years for any possession claim based on rent arrears. The aim of this seems to be to provide the court with the context of the failure to pay rent. i.e whether the tenant historically failed to pay rent, or whether the failure was caused by the repercussions of Covid-19.

Where case management directions have been made prior to 23 August a statement must be filed stating whether the case is suitable for a remote hearing, together with the reactivation notice, a copy of the last directions with new dates for compliance and a draft order confirming that the  existing hearing date can be met or for new directions with a new hearing date.

Any claims where no reactivation notice has been filed or served by 29 January 2021 will be automatically stayed. In response to the receipt of a reactivation notice, the court must give at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing listed or relisted.

For claims brought using the accelerated possession procedure route on or after 3 August (new or stayed) when the claim form is sent to the court, a notice must also be provided that sets out any knowledge that the claimant has of the effect that Covid-19 has had on the defendant and any of his/her dependents.

For further information please contact Bryony Darnell.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.