Wed 05 Aug 2020
Understandably, there have been lots of questions surrounding the changing procedures of possession claims due to Covid-19 disruptions.
On Friday 17th July, it was announced that the Civil Procedure Rules relating to possession claims would be changed, but those changes have only been announced very recently bringing some clarity to what’s been a challenging and uncertain time for everyone.
Covid-19 and housing possessions
Following a 5 month suspension of housing possessions which began on the 27th March 2020 in order to protect all private and social renters, those with mortgages, and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, the courts are due to re-open to hear possesion claims after the 23rd August 2020.
The suspension applied to new cases, those that were already in progress. As a landlord, you were still able to serve a three month notice, and submit a claim of possession to the court to evict a tenant, but that claim would not have been progressed before 24th August 2020.
As a result of this, a New Practice Direction 55C (PD) will apply for an ‘interim period’ from the 23rd August 2020 until the 28th March 2021 applying to possession proceedings.
The PD 55C separates claims into two groups:
- Claims issued before the 3rd August 2020
- Claims issued on or after the 3rd August 2020
No stayed claims issued prior to the 3rd August 2020 will be dealt with by the courts unless a reactivation notice has been served and filed.
Although there’s no template available, there are very strict rules about the information a reactivation notice must contain.
A reactivation notice must:
- State what the claimant is asking the courts to do, confirming whether the party filing and serving it wants the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred
- except in appeal proceedings, it should set out everything the landlord knows about the effect of the pandemic on the tenant and their dependants.
Unless the proceedings are relating to an appeal where a reactivation notice is filed and served by the landlord and the claim is based on rent arrears, the landlord must also include with the notice an updated rent account covering the last two years.
This notice also must be sent to the tenant prior to the hearing, and private landlords should attend court proceedings with two copies of this notice.
The N5B form which is filled out by landlords following the serving of a section 21 notice of possession, will NOT be updated to reflect these changes. And claimants won’t be reminded about the reactivation notice – so it’s important that you’re proactive and don’t wait for a letter to come through the post!