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Coronavirus Act 2020 - stay of possession claims under PD 51Z extends to appeals from possession orders

The Court of Appeal has held that the 90 day stay period applying to possession claims imposed by PD 51Z also extends to appeals from possession…

In London Borough of Hackney v Okoro [2020] EWCA Civ 681 the Court of Appeal has held that the 90 day stay period applying to possession claims imposed by PD 51Z also extends to appeals from possession orders that were in existence prior to the stay being implemented.  

PD 51Z came into force on 27 March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and imposed an automatic stay period of 90 days upon all possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55.

London Borough of Hackney v Okoro [2020] is the second Court of Appeal case concerning the proper construction of PD 51Z. In Arkin v Marshall [2020] it was determined that the stay imposed by PD51Z is lawful and can only be lifted in exceptional circumstances.

London Borough of Hackney v Okoro [2020] - background

The London Borough of Hackney (Hackney) brought possession proceedings against Mr Okoro under CPR Part 55 and an order for possession was granted. Mr Okoro appealed the decision and subsequently, PD 51Z was implemented. The Court of Appeal was asked to determine whether the stay of possession proceedings applies to appeals against a possession order.

Mr Okoro submitted that the stay was applicable on the basis that the objective of PD 51Z, as confirmed in Arkin, was to protect public health and ensure that courts are not overwhelmed during the pandemic.

The position of Hackney was that PD 51Z does not apply to all claims under CPR Part 55, because consent orders for case management directions and action against trespassers are excluded. Moreover, it was submitted that “proceedings for possession” brought under CPR 55 cease when a possession order is made and any subsequent appeal is entirely governed by CPR Part 52, putting it outside the terms of PD 51Z.

Court of Appeal decision

The Court of Appeal determined that the stay imposed by PD 51Z applies to every stage of possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55, including any appeal, up to a final judgment in the Court of Appeal, on the following grounds:

  • Whilst Arkin made no reference to appeals, the judgment explained that the purpose of PD 51Z was to protect public health and ensure that courts are not overwhelmed during the pandemic. This Court of Appeal considered that this objective would be as much furthered by staying appeals as it would first instance proceedings for possession, notwithstanding that there are fewer appeals.
  • The wording of paragraph 2 of PD51Z, which details that the stay applies to all proceedings “brought under CPR55”, should be interpreted broadly. As a matter of ordinary language, the possession proceedings were still “brought under CPR55”, despite the appeal procedure being governed under CPR 52.

Appeals to the Supreme Court were distinguished on the basis that such appeals are beyond the jurisdiction of the Master of the Rolls in making Practice Directions and, as such, would not fall under the stay.

If the content of this update raises any issues for you, or you would like to discuss further, please liaise with Sian Evans, Partner on 0151 242 6821 or email sian.evans@weightmans.com.

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