Landlords and Tenants involved in possession proceedings will be aware that the vast majority of possession claims were stayed during the Covid-19 lockdown period. The current stays are governed by CPR 55.29 which expires on 23rd August 2020.
From that date, Practice Direction 55C (PD 55C) will come into force and this will determine how the Courts deal with possession claims until 28th March 2021.
PD 55C sets out different requirements depending on when the relevant possession claim was first issued.
Claims brought before 3rd August 2020
If the possession claim was brought before 3rd August 2020, the claim will not be listed, heard or referred to a Judge until one of the parties serves a “Reactivation Notice”, stating that they wish the case to be listed. With the exception of appeals, this Reactivation Notice (which is not in a prescribed form) must set out what knowledge the serving party has as to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants. If the claim is based on rent arrears, the Claimant must also provide an updated rent account for the previous two years.
Where Case Management Directions were made before 23rd August 2020, a copy of the last directions with updated deadlines for compliance, a draft Order for new directions with a new hearing date or confirmation that the existing hearing date can be maintained, and a statement setting out whether the case is suitable for a remote hearing must also be filed with the Reactivation Notice.
A Court must give at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing listed or re-listed in response to a Reactivation Notice. If no such Notice has been served by 29th January 2021, the claim will automatically be stayed.
If a final Possession Order has already been made, no Reactivation Notice is required.
Claims brought after 3rd August 2020
For any possession claims brought on or after 3rd August 2020, a Claimant using the accelerated procedure must file with the Claim Form, and Claimants in all cases must serve before and produce at the hearing, a Notice setting out the knowledge they have as to the effect of Covid-19 on the Defendant and their dependants. Social Landlords will also need to confirm that they have complied with the relevant pre-action protocol.
Removal of 8-week period
In relation to all claims, whenever issued, the standard 8-week period between issue and hearing (as governed by CPR 55.5) does not apply. This is designed to avoid overcrowding of Court waiting rooms.
It is expected that a significant number of Reactivation Notices will be served shortly after the commencement of PD 55C and Landlords can expect significant delays in their matter being progressed or listed. It is therefore critical that Reactivation Notices are filed in a timely fashion, and contain all of the information as required by the new Practice Direction. A failure to comply may result in further delay.
If we can assist with any existing possession proceedings, or indeed any proposed proceedings which have not yet been issued, please do not hesitate to contact David Low on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0191 3755060 and we would be happy to assist and ensure that you do not fall foul of these new rules.