Legal group considers how courts will handle evictions after ban

It’s been revealed that a legal group is considering how courts will consider eviction cases when the current ban is lifted in late August.

Sir Terence Atherton – Master of the Rolls and Chair of the independent civil justice council and Head of Civil Justice – has written about the new body in a Civil Justice Council report which considers the range of legal processes and how they should be handled during the Coronavirus crisis.

His statement was: “In particular responding to concerns expressed by a number of consultees about the consequences of the current stay on housing possession claims ending. I have established a cross-sector working group, which is being chaired by Mr Justice Knowles, the chair of the Civil Justice Council’s Access to Justice Sub Committee, to help address these concerns.”

ARLA Propertymark, which has assessed the full Civil Justice Council report, says its main conclusion in regard to the resumption of eviction cases from late August onwards is that remote hearings specifically for case management discussions would be suitable in cases where both sides are represented.

However possession hearings were felt to raise numerous difficulties and were unsuitable for remote determination.

Suggestions made by respondents to the Civil Justice Council review to enable possession hearings to resume included:

– Stronger Pre-Action Protocols for private rented sector evictions based on those used by social landlords in possession cases. “This would require landlords and lenders to demonstrate that they have taken proactive steps to secure legal advice for tenants and generalist advice (this would need to be funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) to assist with the resolution of any underlying issues with accessing welfare benefits” explains ARLA;

– An expansion in the availability of legal advice to all parties; and

– Temporary relaxation of Housing Act 1988 Ground 8, to reflect the circumstances created by the pandemic and protect public health.

No timescale has been given for the new working party to report, although the evictions ban is currently scheduled to end on August 23.

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