Covid-19 – Changes to residential possession proceedings

Insights - 10/09/2020

Changes to residential possession proceedings

Almost all forms of possession proceedings have been suspended (“stayed”) since the end of March 2020. The only exception was for claims against trespassers whose identity is unknown to the landowner. Everything else was put on hold.

That means that landlords and landowners have been unable to advance a claim for the recovery of possession during this time. This has included new and existing claims.

This suspension period is due to expire on 20 September 2020. However, do not expect things to return to normal at that point. During the period of the stay, a number of emergency measures have been introduced which fundamentally alter the process for seeking possession.

As things currently stand, the main changes are as follows:

Notice of effect of pandemic

In nearly all cases, the Claimant must now serve on the Defendant and file with the Court a notice setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.

Reactivation Notices

For certain cases it may also be necessary to serve a “Reactivation Notice” on the defendant. This applies to claims issued before 3 August 2020. A Reactivation Notice needs to contain certain information relating to the proceedings and it also needs to set out the knowledge that the party as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependents.

New periods of notice

The statutory period of notice required to terminate a tenancy has also changed. This applies to statutory notices that must be served before possession proceedings can be brought. Previously, only 2 months’ notice was required in the case of a “section 21 notice” and only 2 weeks in the case of a “section 8 notice” based on rent arrears. Now, in both cases, you will need to give 6 months’ notice, unless the notice was served before 28 August 2020 (in which case only 3 months’ notice is required). There are limited exceptions to these rules, and they may apply depending on your circumstances. Otherwise, most notice periods be 6 months. This is a significant extension, particularly in the case of section 8 notices based on rent arrears.

Abolition of 8-week listings

Another change is that the obligation on the Court to list the first Hearing of Possession case with 8 weeks of issuing the claim has been abandoned. This is likely to result in delays in getting a possession hearing.

How Morrisons Solicitors can assist you with eviction and possession proceedings.

Many of these changes are under review and we expect further developments in this area. It is an area that we are continually monitoring at Morrisons. If you have any questions, please get in touch by contacting Graham Halsall, who leads the residential landlord and tenant team.

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog 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. Please contact us for the latest legal position.