Back in June we did a brief round-up of the position relating to residential possession proceedings in England during the first lockdown of the year. We now find ourselves emerging from a second lockdown, and, since June, a lot has changed as regards residential possession proceedings.
Practice Direction 51Z which stayed virtually all possession proceedings for the period 27 March to 25 June 2020 stopped being in force as of 25 June but due to the ongoing issues with coronavirus the stay was extended until 20 September 2020.
On 17 July 2020 the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 (SI 2020/751) (the ‘Rules’) were made. They came into effect on 23 August 2020. The Rules provide for a new Practice Direction 55C (‘PD 55C’). PD55C was originally due to come into force on 23 August 2020 but, as a result of the extension, came into force on 20 September 2020.
The big change under PD55C is that for claims that were brought before 3 August 2020 to re-start proceedings one of the parties must serve a ‘Reactivation Notice’. And, if they do not, and fail to do so before 29 January 2021 the claim will be automatically stayed.
For existing claims brought after 3 August 2020 the Claimants must serve a notice setting out the knowledge they have of the effect of COVID-19 on the defendant and their dependents. This notice must also be produced at any possession hearing. For new claims brought after this date using the accelerated procedure the Claimant must file the same notice with the claim form.
Other changes to the residential repossession process include the fact that: the standard eight-week period between issuing a possession claim and a hearing being listed no longer applies; there are currently restrictions on residential evictions; and, importantly, there are also extended notice periods currently in place for section 8 and section 21 notices given before 31 March 2021.
The law is changing fast in this area. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has produced a useful guide on the current residential possession procedure, which can be found here. At Annex A is a helpful reference guide on the current notice period lengths for section 8 notices.