Landlords can now issue possession proceedings
Residential landlords can once again issue possession proceedings to evict tenants and secure possession of their property. Jenny Carter in Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Disputes team outlines the latest legal changes, which follow emergency coronavirus legislation introduced earlier in the year.
Amendments to the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 mean that landlords can once again issue proceedings to secure possession of their property. Earlier in the year, the Government introduced what is known as a ‘stay’, which is a temporary freeze, on evictions. The legislation has now ended that stay but has introduced additional measures.
Although possession proceedings can resume, courts are now required to approach cases differently. That means landlords must follow more steps prior to the possession hearing.
How long will the provisions be in force?
The legislation was introduced on 20 September 2020 and states that the new measures will be in place until 31 March 2021. However, this may be reviewed at an earlier date if circumstances change between now and then.
Are there any changes to s21 or s8 Notices?
Landlords are now required to give tenants a minimum of six months’ notice to vacate the property under a Section 21 Notice and for most of the grounds of a Section 8 Notice. The wording of Section 21 and Section 8 Notices has been amended to account for this.
For some of the grounds for serving a Section 8 Notice, the notice period has been reduced to their pre-Covid length. This includes the grounds of anti-social behaviour, six months of rent arrears and domestic violence.
The new notice periods apply to any notice served on or after 29 August 2020.
What new steps will landlords have to follow when issuing possession proceedings?
If you have an existing possession claim brought during the stay, courts will not automatically restart the claim.
If you wish to continue a possession claim, a Reactivation Notice must be filed and served before 29 January 2021. Otherwise the claim will not be recommenced and will be struck out automatically on that date so you will not be able to obtain possession under the previously served notice. You therefore have to effectively start again.
The Reactivation Notice requires landlords to provide information about how the pandemic has affected the tenant(s), their financial status and details of any and all rental arrears. This is even the case with a ‘no fault’ section 21 notice.
After the Reactivation Notice and accompanying evidence has been filed and served, all cases will be listed for a review date prior to being listed for a substantive hearing. Again, this includes section 21 notice based proceedings. A substantive hearing will be required for all possession proceedings, including accelerated possession proceedings.
When will my case be heard?
The review date will not be before 19 October 2020. The Reactivation Notice includes a list of ‘priority cases’. These include cases involving significant anti-social behaviour, rental arrears of at least 12 months’ rent and squatters or illegal occupiers.
You will be required to provide evidence that your case is a priority case. If your claim does not fall into one of those categories, it will not be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
The substantive hearing will be no earlier than 16 November 2020 if your claim is in a priority list. For non-priority cases, it may be many months before the courts review the matter, due to the backlog they are now dealing with.
When will I get possession of my property?
On 10 September 2020, the Government announced that no eviction dates will be given in the run-up to or over the Christmas period, except in the most serious of cases. This means that if your case is heard in November, the possession date is likely to be January 2021 at the earliest but, more likely, February or March 2021.
In the same announcement, the Government also confirmed that evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs in areas of local lockdown even after the date for possession under any possession order has passed.