UPDATE – On 21st August 2020 the courts extended the “ban” on evictions by placing on hold all possession proceedings and suspending all eviction work carried out by court bailiffs until 20th September 2020.
The following procedure for reactivation possession claims will come into force on 21st September 2020.
Reactivating possession cases
As many people will be aware, during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a “ban” on evictions of residential tenants. The courts achieved this “ban” by placing on hold all possession proceedings and suspending all eviction work carried out by court bailiffs. This has meant that landlords have not been able to obtain Possession Orders or dates for evictions during the pandemic; and tenants have been able to remain living in their homes during the recent turbulent times without the risk of eviction hanging over them.
All of this is about to change.
From 20th September 2020 landlords will be able to ask the court once again for Possession Orders and Eviction Notices.
New court rules set out how possession claims should be managed. These court rules are a further temporary change until 28th March 2021.
What happens if my possession case was already at court?
If the claim has been issued by the court already one of the parties in the proceedings (for example, either the landlord or the tenant) will need to file a “reactivation notice” to trigger any court action in possession claims that were stayed.
Unless a reactivation notice is filed, the court will not (a) list any hearings, (b) allow existing hearings to go ahead, or (c) in accelerated claims for possession, refer cases to a judge for a decision.
If no reactivation notice is filed at the court by 29th January 2021 then the party would need to make an application to lift the stay as well as file a reactivation notice. An application for relief from sanctions would not be necessary.
The reactivation notice can be in the form of a letter but it must include the following:
It must state whether the party would like the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge.
It must state what information the party has about the impact that the pandemic has had on the Defendant (the tenant) and their dependents. If this information is not provided, the judge may adjourn the case until the information is provided.
If the claim is about rent arrears, an up-to-date rent statement for the last two years should be enclosed.
If directions were made before 20th September 2020 or a trial date was set before 27th March 2020, the party must also file: a copy of the last directions order with new dates for compliance, and either a draft order setting out any new directions required or a statement confirming that no new directions are required and whether any existing hearing dates can be met. The statement should also include whether the case is suitable for a hearing by video or audio link.
Any trial dates listed will be vacated unless a party to the claim files a reactivation notice not less than 42 days prior to the trial date.
Any party can respond to a notice filed by a party within 14 days of the reactivation notice.
What about new claims after 3rd August 2020?
For all possession claim started after 3rd August 2020, no reactivation notice is required but the Claimant must bring to the court hearing two copies of a notice which sets out which pre-action protocol applies, confirming how the Claimant has complied with it, and, in all cases, set out what knowledge they have about the effect of the pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants. This information must be served on the Defendant at least 14 days before the hearing.
How can we help?
If you are dealing with a possession claim, either bringing or defending one, you should obtain specialist legal advice as soon as possible.
TV Edwards has a team of solicitors with expertise in bringing and defending possession claims.
We work under legal aid for occupiers who are at risk of losing their homes and who meet the financial eligibility criteria. We offer reasonable fees where you are not eligible for legal aid.
If you are a tenant or occupier seeking legal advice relating to housing issues, then please contact us on 0203 440 8100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we can assist.
If you are a landlord seeking advice on regaining possession of your property we can offer fixed fees or reasonable hourly rates for advice and representation. Please contact us on 020 3440 8100 or email A_LandLordServicesReferrals@tvedwards.com with your enquiry.