New legislation for property possession cases
New legislation has affected how property possession cases are heard by the courts. Jenny Carter, Paralegal in Coodes Solicitors Personal Disputes team, outlines the changes and explains what they mean for landlords.
On Friday 17 July 2020, the Government announced changes to the Civil Procedure Rules which govern courts in England and Wales. This new legislation is called the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 and it will affect how property possession cases are handled moving forwards.
When does the new legislation come into force?
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, possession proceedings have been stayed until 23 August 2020. This means courts are unable to make orders for the eviction of tenants during this period.
From 23 August, possession proceedings can resume, although courts will be required to approach possession cases differently. There will also be more actions required of landlords prior to the possession hearing going ahead.
How long will the provisions be in force?
The legislation states that the new measures will be in place until 28 March 2021, although this may be reviewed at an earlier date if circumstances change between now and then.
Are there any changes to s21 or s8 Notices?
There are no changes to notices served under section 21 and section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. However, landlords will still be required to give tenants a minimum of three months’ notice to vacate the property.
What additional steps do landlords have to follow?
If an application for possession was made prior to 3 August 2020 and the landlord wishes to resume proceedings, they will need to notify the court and tenant(s) in writing.
This notification will be known as a reactivation notice. Without a reactivation notice, possession proceedings started during or prior to lockdown will not resume and will be automatically cancelled by the court.
The landlord will also be required to provide details of the tenant’s circumstances, including their financial situation, ahead of the hearing. This includes if someone in the property has been shielding or is in some way vulnerable.
In addition, if the landlord intends to claim for rental arrears, they will need to produce evidence of the arrears in full together with all payments received and missed from the start of the tenancy. This information must provided to the court in advance of the hearing.
How will the courts use tenants’ details?
There is not yet any detail about how courts will use the information about tenants’ circumstances during the pandemic, or any guidance about how the reactivation notice should be served. At Coodes, we are keeping up to date with the changes in legislation and we will update you when further announcements are made.
If you are a landlord already instructing Coodes, once the imposed stay is lifted, we will contact you individually to check that you wish us to serve a reactivation notice and continue with your possession claim.
When will my case be heard?
Due to current stay on possession proceedings, courts will inevitably have to deal with a backlog of cases, meaning that cases will take longer than usual to progress.
The legislation also includes provisions for courts to spread out hearings to take into account their capacity to deal with such matters.
Therefore it will be even more important that landlords follow procedures to the letter to avoid further delays. Coodes can assist with this and offer a number of fixed fees for this type of work.