On 25th March the government introduced emergency legislation with the passing of the Coronavirus Act 2020. Schedule 29 of the Act was designed to deal with residential landlord and tenant possessions claims. The aim of the government in passing this act has been to try and find a balance between the needs of landlords and tenants during these unprecedented and challenging times. Whether they have managed to find this balance during the course of the past 5 months is a matter of opinion, with some parties feeling that they have been more adversely affected by this blanket ban on possession proceedings than others.
Originally, a Practice Direction was issued which provided that all possession actions issued at court should be suspended or stayed initially for 90 days. Also, where landlords were historically able to serve a section 21 notice to bring a tenancy to an end on two months’ notice the period was extended to 3 months. This meant that all cases listed for hearing and those with bailiffs’ appointments pre-arranged were stayed until the end of June 2020 initially. The ‘stay’ on possession proceedings was subsequently extended until the 23rd August 2020.
A further Practice Direction was published on 21st July 2020 that provided that all possession claims that were brought before 3rd August 2020 would be immediately stayed in accordance with the previous Practice Direction. Further, it stated that all such claims would not be listed, relisted, heard or, referred to a Judge until either party filed and served a “Reactivation Notice”.
What is a Reactivation Notice?
Under the new Practice Direction, a Reactivation Notice must:
- Confirm which party is filing the Notice and whether they wish the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred; and
- That party must set out what knowledge they have of any effect that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on the opposing party and their dependant
The Reactivation Notice is usually filed by the Claimant and they must serve this on a Defendant. Where the claim is brought due to arrears of rent a claimant must provide an updated rent account covering the past two years.
Upon receipt of a Reactivation Notice, the Court must provide at least 21 days’ Notice to the parties of any hearing listed or relisted.
What are the new rules on possession proceedings?
The new rules were intended to apply from 23rd August 2020 until 28th March 2021. It was anticipated that there would have been a surge of evictions after 23rd August 2020. Just when courts were gearing up to resume possession proceedings from Monday 24th August 2020, the government announced that possession proceedings would again be stayed for a further 4 weeks.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the move as an “11th hour u-turn” whilst landlords and lawyers have branded the last-minute blanket extension unacceptable.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “A blanket extension is unacceptable, especially so close to the deadline. This announcement satisfies no-one……Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, anti-social behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates……Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for Governments failure.”
Prior to the pandemic, the courts were already slow at processing possession claims, and with the further stay in place, it is anticipated that there will be a huge backlog of claims that the courts will be unable to deal with.
If you are a landlord who requires advice on what you can do next in relation to possession proceedings, or a tenant who is concerned about the implications of the new rules please contact FJG, call 01206 700113 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, book an appointment for our free, virtual Landlord & Tenant advice clinic.
For more information on legal updates and changes during the Coronavirus pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Legal Advice hub.
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