Housing possession update for landlords 5 Aug 2020
The changes and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have understandably raised lots of questions, some of which no-one has been able to answer in the absence of concrete government guidance.
After the announcement on the 17th July that the Civil Procedure Rules relating to possession claims would be changed without indicating what those changes might be, we now have a clear idea of how possession claims are going to work going forward, and it’s important that if you’re a landlord you really take note of this.
Covid-19 and possession claims background
Originally housing possessions were suspended for a five month period beginning on the 27th March 2020 as one way to protect tenants and those with mortgages from the wider effects of the pandemic.
The suspension applied to new cases as well as those which were already in progress. Landlords were able to serve tenants with three months of notice and submit a claim of possession to the court to evict tenants, but no courts were open to progress the claims. The courts are due to re-open to hear possession claims after the 23rd August 2020.
Moving forward from the five months suspension, a New Practice Direction 55C (PD) will apply for an ‘interim period’ from the 23rd August 2020 until the 28th March 2021 applying to possession proceedings.
The PD 55C separates claims into two groups:
- Claims issued before the 3rd August 2020
- Claims issued on or after the 3rd August 2020
It's important to note, that the N5B form filled out by landlords following the serving of a section 21 possession notice is NOT being amended. People who have stayed possession claims made before the 3rd August will need to proactively issue their tenant(s) with a reactivation notice (there will be no reminders), or their case will not be heard in court.
There’s no template available for a reactivation notice, but there are strict rules as to what information they contain.
State what the claimant is asking courts to do
They need to confirm whether the party filing and serving it wants the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred
What effect the pandemic has had on the tenant
except in appeal proceedings, it should clearly set out everything the landlord knows about the effect of the pandemic on the tenant and their dependants.
The landlord must also include with the notice an updated rent account covering the last two years, unless the proceedings are relating to an appeal where a reactivation notice is filed and served by the landlord and the claim is based on rent arrears.
This notice also must be sent to the tenant prior to the hearing, and private landlords should attend court proceedings with two copies of it.