Reactivating Possession Proceedings Stayed as a Result of COVID-19

Posted on August 14, 2020

We previously posted on the impact of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) on landlords looking to regain possession of properties rented to tenants and on a subsequent extension of the ban on evictions and what that meant for landlords.

In short, changes implemented in response to Covid-19 meant that all possession proceedings already in the system were (and continue to be) ‘stayed’ (i.e. halted) and any new proceedings sent to the court following the ban on evictions, whilst issued (i.e. processed by the court and placed on the court system), have been automatically stayed.

The ban on evictions is to be lifted on 23 August 2020. In anticipation of the ban being lifted, there has been much uncertainty over how possession proceedings already in the system will be dealt with following 23 August 2020.

Practice Direction 55C – ‘Coronavirus: Temporary Provision In Relation to Possession Proceedings’ – has provided some much-needed guidance.

Practice Direction 55 provides that where possession proceedings were made before 03 August 2020, the court needs to be made aware that a party to the proceedings wishes for the possession claim to continue.

In order to notify the court that you wish for the claim to proceed, a ‘Reactivation Notice’ needs to be filed (at the court) and served (sent to the other parties in the claim). The ‘Reactivation Notice’ needs to:

  1. Confirm that the party filing the notice wishes for the case to be ‘listed, relisted, heard or referred’; and
  2. Set out what knowledge the party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependents.

Importantly, unless the court is made aware of the above two points, the claim will remain stayed and will not progress.

Practice Direction 55C provides that a ‘Reactivation Notice’ is not required for stayed claims in which a final possession order has already been made. This would apply to those cases where enforcement of a possession order (i.e. by way of a warrant of possession and appointment of a bailiff) was not possible due to the ban on evictions.

There are additional requirements when filing and serving a ‘Reactivation Notice’ where a possession claim is based on rent arrears, and for claims where case management directions were given prior to 23 August 2020.

Furthermore, for claims brought after 03 August 2020, whilst a ‘Reactivation Notice’ does not need to be filed or served, a Claimant needs to set out their knowledge as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant(s) and their dependents.

It is going to be important for Landlords to act in accordance with Practice Direction 55C when looking to reactivate possession proceedings, and also when looking to commence ‘new’ possession proceedings.

Here at Jefferies, we can guide Landlords through the process of reactivating existing possession proceedings and starting ‘new’ possession proceedings.

Please contact Victoria Scott, at vs@jefferieslaw.co.uk or on 01702 332 311.

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