By Laura Smallwood
The stay on possession proceedings now governed by CPR 55.29, which was brought in to replace PD 51Z from 25th June by the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 will come to an end on 23rd August. What then?
The answer lies in a new, temporary practice direction, Practice Direction 55C, introduced by the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020, made on 17th July and effective from 23rd August until 28th March 2021.
The headline changes made by the PD are as follows:
• There will be no automatic revival of stayed claims. Where a party wishes to revive a stayed claim (defined to include appeals) brought before 3rd August, then other than where a final possession order has been made a ‘reactivation notice’ must be filed and served. In addition to confirming that the party serving the notice wishes the case to proceed the notice must, other than in appeals, set out party’s knowledge of the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependents, and include an updated rent account for the previous two years if the claim is based on rent arrears;
• In any claim brought on or after 3rd August the claimant must bring to the hearing two copies of a notice setting out the claimant’s knowledge of the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependents, and serve the notice on the defendant not less than 14 days before the hearing;
• In any claim brought on or after 3rd August under the accelerated procedure within CPR 55 section II, the claimant must file a notice with the claim form setting out what knowledge the claimant has of the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependents;
• The standard eight-week period between issue and hearing of claims under CPR 55.5 is suspended.
Other provisions include requirements where a reactivation notice is served in claims in which case management directions had been made before 23rd August and provide for an automatic stay of stayed claims if no reactivation notice has been filed and served by 4pm on 29th January 2021.
Landlords may have harboured hopes if not of a resumption of the position pre-Covid, at least of a semblance of normality on the lifting of the stay, albeit with inevitable delays in claims coming before the court due to the backlog. What is clear is that claimants will now have to comply with a series of additional obligations in seeking to obtain possession orders. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Rules produced by the Ministry of Justice acknowledges that ‘there may be an impact on landlords operating as a business”, but the new regime will surely affect all claimants. It is not clear however how the information on the effect of the pandemic required to be before the court in all claims will be treated, not least in cases where mandatory grounds for possession are relied upon and extraneous considerations would not ordinarily be relevant.
If you require advice, or representation, in a claim relating to land or property you can instruct Laura Smallwood by contacting her clerks on 01483 539131 or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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