Thanks to Covid 19 emergency measures, all new and existing residential tenants have had a stay of execution over repossession proceedings since 27th March. The rules were due to change on 23rd August 2020 but have now been extended until 20th September. The Civil Procedure Rules Committee has agreed how the rules on home possession will change once the suspension is lifted and proceedings can resume.
The new rules will continue until the end of March 2021, but may be extended. Until then, landlords will need to follow strict guidelines in order to regain possession of a property, including some pre-action protocols.
The landlord must inform both the tenant and the court of their wish to repossess a property before a case can commence. Once notice is served, the landlord must then provide a history of the rent arrears to the court before the hearing. The landlord will need to set out in their claim any relevant information regarding the tenant’s personal circumstances, including their vulnerability and social security status, including how Covid 19 has affected them. Judges may adjourn proceedings where this has not happened.
The new requirements are designed to more effectively use court time, and should help courts to prioritise cases such as those involving antisocial behaviour, hefty rent arrears, fraud and unauthorised sub-letting.
It is anticipated that there will be a high demand for repossessions once the current stay is lifted. To avert the potential log jam of interest, the government is encouraging landlords to achieve a resolution by other means. Landlords and tenants should seek mediation to agree an affordable rent repayment plan before taking court action.
The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) warns that where landlords fail to meet the pre-action protocols the court could make an order for costs, or it could adjourn or even strike out the claim unless the repossession is sought on ‘mandatory grounds’.
Read the Ministry of Housing’s Coronavirus July update: Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.