Almost all forms of possession proceedings were put on hold between 26 March 2020 and 20 September 2020.
Not only have parties been forced to endure months of inactivity, but the build-up of stayed cases over such a long period, inevitably, lead to a backlog of claims. Therefore, even though the stay has ended, the parties are often experiencing further long periods of delay.
The Practice Direction
The new Practice Direction is available to view here.
This applies from 23 August 2020 to 30 July 2021 and affects both stayed claims and new claims (i.e. claims filed after 22 August 2020).
The key provisions of this Practice Direction are as follows:
- Certain types of stayed claims will not be advanced until a “reactivation notice” is served.
- The reactivation notice must:
- confirm that the party filing and serving it wishes the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred; and
- except in proceedings relating to an appeal:-
- set out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants;
- where a reactivation notice is filed and served by the Claimant and the claim is based on arrears of rent, the Claimant must provide with the notice an updated rent account for the previous two years.
- In certain types of stayed cases, the party filing and serving a reactivation notice must file and serve with it –
- a copy of the last directions order together with new dates for compliance with the directions taking account of the stay before 23 August 2020; and
- a draft order setting out additional or alternative directions (including proposing a new hearing date) which are required; or
- a statement in writing that no new directions are required and that an existing hearing date can be met; and
- a statement in writing whether the case is suitable for hearing by video or audio link.
- In all claims brought after 3 August 2020, the Claimant must:
- bring to the hearing
- two copies of a notice—
- in a claim to which the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords is applicable, confirming that the Claimant has complied with that Pre-Action Protocol and detailing how the Claimant has done so; and
- in all claims, setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants; and
- serve on the Defendant not less than 14 days prior to the hearing the notices referred to in sub-paragraph (a) setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.
- two copies of a notice—
- bring to the hearing
- In any claim (whether a new claim or a stayed claim) brought on or after 3 August 2020 to which Section II of Part 55 applies the Claimant must file with the claim form for service with it a notice setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.
- The current deadline for filing a re-activation notice is 30 April 2021 and if neither party files one then the claim will remain “stayed”. Any party wishing to revive the claim would need to make an application requesting that the stay be lifted.
What do these changes mean?
These changes are more than just red tape and it is not just a case of serving the relevant notice and providing copies of the relevant document. In almost every case, the Claimant will have to set out their knowledge as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependents. Academic commentary on this requirement strongly suggests that the Courts will expect claimants to have made attempts to obtain the relevant information from the defendant..
If the intention of this legislation is to slow down the surge of stayed claims, it will most certainly achieve that. But, at what cost? The burden of compliance has definitely shifted in favour of the Defendants and this is likely to prejudice landlords more so than tenants.
This is very unlikely to be the final word in this area and we continue to keep a close eye on developments. So please get in touch if you have any questions and tune in for more updates in due course.
Contact Morrisons Solicitors Today
If you have any further queries regarding possession claims please do not hesitate to contact Graham Halsall in our Dispute Resolution team in our Redhill office. We work closely with both landlords and tenants for residential and commercial properties; our expert solicitors can help you navigate possession claims and current court processes.
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.