Updated Court Rules Extend Slower Possession Procedures

1st February 2021 Commercial Litigation

On Friday 29 January 2021, the Courts slipped out unheralded a series of changes to the court rules. While these changed a number of things there were important changes that will affect the Private Rented Sector.

First, the changed court procedures relating to possession claims were extended. These were due to come to an end on 28 March 2021 but will not last until 30 July 2021. This was not a huge surprise as the courts have barely got to grips with the new process and things are only really just getting going. That said, the point of the changes was to avoid a cliff edge of eviction and there seems little sign of that happening at the moment.

It is notable that the altered possession process end date also coincided with the end date for longer notice periods for Housing Act 1988 tenancies. It seems likely therefore that the longer notice periods are also going to be extended. Whether these will be on the same terms or be extended until July is less certain.

It is also important to remember that the changed court processes are not connected with the stays on eviction that are operating. Currently these run until 21 February in England. However, I would also expect some form of extension to that date as well, albeit probably not until July.

The second change worth noting is an alteration to the rules to allow for further practice directions to be created in response to the Covid pandemic or any other health emergency. So it is now easier for the courts to create new practice rules to make changes to court procedure for the current pandemic, or any future one.

Lastly, there is a new practice direction and scope for more such directions relating to the new breathing space process and debt respite moratoria which come into effect from 4 May. These set out how applications can be made to the court to have a moratorium cancelled and how claimants must notify the court if a debt they are dealing with has been cancelled.

This is part of the general set of changes that are regularly made to court rules. However, there are important changes here which will affect landlords generally and which give suggestions as to how the government is thinking in relation to possession claims more generally.

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David Smith is a Partner located in Londonin our Commercial Litigation department

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