In readiness for the stay on residential possession proceedings arising from the Coronavirus Act 2020 to end on 20 September, there has been guidance introduced to deal with the challenges posed by backlog, increased demand and reduced Court capacity. These have been named ‘the Overall Arrangements’.
Any existing possession claim will require a ‘Reactivation Notice’ to be served if they wish to proceed. This can be done anytime up until 29 January 2021.
As a guideline, the following cases will be listed with priority:
- Cases with allegations of anti-social behaviour, including Ground 7A of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 and Section 84A of the Housing Act 1985.
- Cases with extreme alleged rent arrears accrued, that is, arrears equal to at least (i) 12 months’ rent or (ii) 9 months’ rent where that amounts to more than 25% of a private landlord’s total annual income from any source.
- Cases involving alleged squatters, illegal occupiers or persons unknown.
- Cases involving an allegation of domestic violence where possession of the property is alleged to be important for particular reasons which are set out in the claim form (and with domestic violence agencies alerted).
- Cases with allegations of fraud or deception.
- Cases with allegations of unlawful subletting.
- Cases with allegations of abandonment of the property, non-occupation or death of defendant.
- Cases concerning what was allocated by an authority as ‘temporary accommodation’ and is specifically needed by the authority for reallocation as ‘temporary accommodation’.
Also, claims issued prior to the stay in March 2020 will also be given priority (subject to the above). There are also provisions within the guidance for ‘Covid Marking’ which identifies cases affected by the pandemic.
Claims will now be given an ‘Review Date’ and will be given 21 days’ notice of that date. Then, 14 days before the Review Date, the claimant must:
- to provide to the Court an electronic bundle (with a paper bundle allowed as an alternative);
- to confirm to the Court that a paper bundle had been provided to the defendant (with an electronic copy in addition where the defendant is able to receive that);
- to confirm to the Court that the bundle includes all required material, specifically including enhanced information about the defendant now required;
- to confirm to the Court that the claimant will be available during the Review Date to discuss the case (by telephone would be sufficient) with the defendant or a duty scheme (or other) adviser.
On the Review Date, the claimant must be available to speak to the Defendant on the phone together with a duty advisor. At the end of the Review Date, the Court will conduct a 5-minute review (without the parties) and make any further directions if an agreement has not been reached. It may be that after the Review Date, the Court refers to the proposed independent mediation scheme, provided both parties agree for it to be referred. If not, the substantive hearings will listed for 15 minutes, at least 28 days after the review date.
There is an awful lot to digest and more to be seen as to how this will work in practice. If you have any concerns or queries about possession of residential properties at this time, at any stage of the process, please contact Lee Pearce, Joe Brightman, Molly Frankham or Danielle Eley.