Landlords and Tenants will no doubt be acutely aware that the Coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a significant number of changes to both the law and procedure around applications for possession of residential properties. This has included a general stay on possession cases for much of the year and an increase in the length of notice periods that must be provided depending on the reason notice is being given.
Whilst the new rules relating to notice periods continue at this time, the Courts have been working hard to deal with the backlog of existing and new possession cases which inevitably had built up during the past eight months.
In respect of all new possession claims, a new stage has been added (Stage 3) in the form of a review appointment which will take place before a possession hearing is listed some twenty-eight days later. To try and minimise the risk of even further delays as matters progress through the various stages, it is more important than ever that the correct documentation is filed at the outset of a claim.
Just as these cases appeared to be getting back on track, with the first review appointments being listed, the new national lockdown will undoubtedly result in further delays. Whilst the Courts themselves remain open for business and possession cases can proceed as before, it has now been confirmed that evictions themselves will not be enforced whilst national restrictions are in place. When combined with the existing agreement not to carry out evictions between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021, this means that in the majority of cases Bailiffs will not carry out evictions until after 11 January 2021 at the earliest.
Landlords should note that there are exceptions to this general rule, including where the tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or are the perpetrator of domestic abuse in social housing, and the Landlord wishes to re-let their property to another tenant. Exceptions also apply where there is an illegal occupation, fraud or where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant. The Government has also announced its intention to introduce an exemption for “extreme pre-Covid rent arrears” cases although the details of this are yet to be released.
Guides for both Landlords and Tenants relating to both the private and social housing sectors have now been published by the Government and can be found here.
If you require any advice or assistance relating to existing or new possession matters, please do not hesitate to contact David Low on 0191 3755060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org