Courts: New repossession rules
The strict procedures landlords must now follow when bringing forward possession cases have been laid out by government.
Ministers announced there would be changes to the process on Friday – and have now released more details as to what landlords will need to do under new Civil Procedure Rules.
Courts will reopen on August 24 following a five month ban on evictions, introduced by the government in a bid to protect renters during the Covid-19 crisis.
The principle changes are that landlords will need to confirm they wish to make or continue with a claim by filling in a reactivation notice and sending it to the court and the tenants and must take into account how tenants’ circumstances have been affected by coronavirus.
The government says landlords must follow ‘strict procedures’ if they want to gain possession of their property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement in place and the terms of it.
The new rules mean:
- Landlords seeking possession of their property to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on a tenant’s vulnerability or social security position. These rules will apply to all possession proceedings either new or existing, including accelerated possession proceedings. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings. These changes will be in place until the end of March 2021 but could be extended.
- Landlords will need to notify the Court and their tenant of their continued desire to seek repossession before the case will proceed using a ‘reactivation notice’. This rule includes accelerated possession cases and the government says it will ensure that the Court’s time is spent on the right cases. However a reactivation notice will NOT be needed for any claim where a possession order has been granted, suggesting landlords can move to execute the warrant via bailiff services.
- The court will have flexibility on setting the date for the court hearing to allow it to fix a date either on or after the claim form is issued to the landlord. Currently a hearing date is set at the same time as the claim form is issued. The requirement to fix a hearing eight weeks after the claim form is issued to landlords will be suspended.
Landlords will need to provide a rent arrears history in advance of the hearing , rather than providing at the hearing itself.
- High Court bailiffs will be required to provide notice of the eviction date to the tenant, in the same way that notice is provided by county court bailiffs. The notice will include information on how the tenant can apply to suspend the eviction and where to go to for advice.
The Government has stressed it is keen to encourage landlords wherever possible, NOT to pursue non-priority cases through the courts.
It considers priority cases to be those involving anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, domestic abuse, cases involving squatters, fraud or unlawful subletting. The NRLA welcomes this move, which came about after the association lobbied the Government on the issue.
It is also encouraging landlords and tenants to consider mediation, in which an independent third-party helps both parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute, without the matter needing to go to court.
NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle sits on a Government-led working group, alongside representatives from across the industry, which continues to look at other measures to support the reopening of the courts.