Coronavirus Act 2020: stay on possession proceedings now lifted
Karen Neald looks at the stay on possession proceedings being lifted.
The stay on proceedings which was imposed by the introduction of Practice Direction 51Z (PD51Z), has now been lifted, as of 20 September 2020.
Practice Direction 55C (PD55C) is a temporary supplement to CPR 55 possession proceedings and sets out the procedural requirements to reactivate claims which are currently stayed, as well as those which apply to new claims. This amendment is due to remain in effect until 28 March 2021.
PD55C sets out different procedural requirements depending on the date the possession claim was issued.
For stayed possession claims brought before 3 August 2020, the following applies:
- The claim will not be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge until a party files and serves a ‘reactivation notice’, confirming that they wish for the case to continue.
- In response to a reactivation notice, the court must give at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing listed or relisted.
- If no reactivation notice has been filed and served by 4pm on 29 January 2021, the claim will be automatically stayed.
For possession claims (whether new or stayed) brought on or after 3 August 2020, the following applies:
- The claimant must serve, prior to the hearing, and produce at the hearing, a notice setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on the defendant and their dependants.
- The standard period between issue and hearing of eight weeks does not apply.
It was initially thought that the reactivation notice would have been in a prescribed form but to date that has not been confirmed. However relevant information must be provided to the court and to assist on 15 September 2020, the court service published template reactivation notices for claimants and defendants.
The following is a summary of what a party may be expected to include:
- The notice must confirm whether the party filing the notice 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
- In existing claims where case management directions were made before 20 September 2020, the party filing the notice must file and serve a copy of the last directions order and propose new dates for directions and proposed hearing date. Alternatively, they may state that no new directions are required and that an existing hearing date can be met. A statement in writing as to whether the case is suitable for hearing by video or audio link is also required.
- Except in proceedings relating to an appeal, where a reactivation notice is filed and served by the claimant and the claim relates to rent arrears, an updated rent account for the previous two years must be provided.
On 14 September 2020, the Master of the Rolls published guidance, detailing the overall arrangement for possession proceedings in England Wales. The document identifies the challenge the legal system faces, following the lift on stay of proceedings, caused by accrued demand and the reduced capacity of the court.
One particular arrangement identified in order to address this challenge is the introduction of a prioritisation scheme. Therefore, as a guideline, the following cases will be listed with priority:
- Cases with allegations of anti-social behaviour, including Ground 7A Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 and Section 84A of the Housing Act 1985
- Cases with extreme alleged rent arrears accrued, that is, equal to at least 12 months’ rent or 9 months’ rent, where that amounts to more than 25% of a private landlord’s total annual income from any source
- Cases involving alleged squatters, illegal occupiers or persons unknown
- Cases involving an allegation of domestic violence where possession of the property is alleged to be important for particular reasons which are set out in the claim form
- Cases with allegations of fraud or deception
- Cases with allegations of unlawful subletting
- Cases with allegations of abandonment of the property, non-occupation or death of defendant
- Cases concerning what was allocated by an authority as ‘temporary accommodation’ and is specifically needed by the authority for reallocation as ‘temporary accommodation’.
Subject to the above, priority will be given to claims issued before the stay commenced in March 2020.
We will of course keep you updated as to any further announcements as and when received.
Please take a look at the templates for reactivation notices.
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