With the stay on possession proceedings now being lifted, civil practitioner Oliver Nunn speaks about the resumption of possession claims from Monday:
As you may be aware, possession claims are to resume at the County Courts from this coming Monday, 21st September 2020.
There has been an abundance of new guidance released of late. Much of it is helpfully contained and summarised in Nearly Legal’s article of the 15 September 2020, which you can find here.
It appears that the system is expected to be running at around 25% of previous capacity as there will not be block listing.
Although it is not a statutory requirement I would encourage you to use the gov.uk pro forma ‘Reactivation Notice’ which you can find here.
You will remember that PD 55C para 2.5 requires that a reactivation notice is filed 42 days prior to a listed trial date which was set before 27 March 2020:
“Unless the court orders otherwise, any trial date set prior to 27 March 2020 (the date on which Practice Direction 51Z came into force) shall be vacated and the case stayed unless a party complies with the provisions of paragraphs 2.1, 2.3, 2.4 and 5.1 not less than 42 days prior to the hearing date.”
For that reason, and the inevitable delays including the prospect of only running at 25% capacity, I would suggest you ignore the plea in the notes to the Reactivation Notice, which says: “There is no need to rush to reactivate – you have until 4pm on 24 January 2021”.
I suspect that plea has more to do with court administration than much else.
On the 14th of September, the Master of the Rolls published the results of the possession proceedings working group, available here. Of note is paragraph 43 which shows the following cases are to be given priority:
a) Cases with allegations of anti-social behaviour, including Ground 7A of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 and Section 84A of the Housing Act 1985.
b) Cases with extreme alleged rent arrears accrued, that is, arrears equal to at least (i) 12 months’ rent or (ii) 9 months’ rent where that amounts to more than 25% of a private landlord’s total annual income from any source.
c) Cases involving alleged squatters, illegal occupiers or persons unknown.
d) Cases involving an allegation of domestic violence where possession of the property is alleged to be important for particular reasons which are set out in the claim form (and with domestic violence agencies alerted).
e) Cases with allegations of fraud or deception.
f) Cases with allegations of unlawful subletting.
g) Cases with allegations of abandonment of the property, non-occupation or death of defendant.
h) Cases concerning what was allocated by an authority as ‘temporary accommodation’ and is specifically needed by the authority for reallocation as ‘temporary accommodation’.
You may wish to keep that prioritisation in mind when filing your notices. I would also suggest you consider the ‘Covid-19 Marking’ of files which is discussed at paragraph 29 of the working group’s paper.
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