It was hoped by commercial and residential landlords alike, that the stay on all possession proceedings was going to be lifted on 23 August 2020.
This stay, which sought to protect tenants in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, had first been imposed by CPR Practice Direction 51Z and was due to end on 25 June 2020. This stay was subsequently extended by CPR 55.29 and was expected to end on Sunday 23 August 2020.
However, in a last-minute U-turn the Lord Chancellor directed that the Civil Procedure Rule Committee extend the stay imposed by CPR 55.29 to 20 September 2020. This was subsequently approved and The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 were laid before Parliament on 24 August 2020 and came into force retrospectively on 22 August 2020.
The position for residential landlords is even starker than their commercial counterparts. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced on 21 August 2020 that notices under section 21 and section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (both of which are served on tenants to start the eviction process whether or not the tenant is at fault or paying rent) are now required to give six months’ notice prior to commencing possession proceedings (subject to several exceptions). It also reduced the required notice period in cases where at least six months’ rent is outstanding from three months to four weeks.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/914) (English Regulations), which enact these changes, were laid before Parliament on 28 August 2020 and came into force on 29 August 2020. The notice period is already at 6 months in Wales.
These extensions will remain in force until 31 March 2021.
The legislation does not prevent a landlord from issuing a claim for possession but once the claim is issued it will be automatically stayed.
This legislation is designed to protect tenants but this further extension is a cause for concern for landlords who are losing money with little recourse to the courts and no way to obtain possession to re-let their property.
Once a claim has been stayed there are further procedural requirements to restart the claim in the form of a ‘reactivation notice’. This has been introduced by CPR Practice Direction 55C although no guidance has been given on this point and it is currently of no use with the extension to the stay mentioned above.
It is thought that, when the stay is eventually lifted, there will be an enormous backlog of claims which will take the courts months to work through.
These rules are rapidly changing and evolving and therefore it is vital that landlords keep up to date on what remedies they may have against their tenant (whether it be a commercial or residential tenant) and seek legal advice where necessary.
It should also be noted that the above does not impact a landlord’s ability to seek other relief such as closing orders or injunctive relief to prevent anti-social behaviour or grant access to carry out urgent repairs or gas safety checks.
If you need advice on any of the key issues detailed here, or would like assistance in commencing legal action against a tenant, then please contact Paul Davis on 0116 281 6231 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.