The Government has made a temporary amendment to Civil Procedure Rules 1998 in order to manage the resumption of possession proceedings when the “moratorium on evictions” ends on 23 August 2020. The temporary amendment makes several changes to the usual process for possession proceedings, including requiring claimants who wish to resume proceedings to “inform the court and defendant in writing of this after the expiry of the stay in a 'reactivation notice'” and acknowledges that the government expects an “increased volume” in possession proceedings. The temporary amendment will apply in England and Wales until 28 March 2021, although the changes may be reviewed before then.
Changes under the temporary amendment include:
- Claimants will now be required to inform the court and the defendant in writing that they want to resume stayed proceedings after the expiry of the stay.
- Claimants will also be required to provide any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependants, so the court can consider defendants’ vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”.
- Claimants will also need to, as far as practicable, produce the full arrears history of the defendant in advance rather than at the hearing.
- The court will be allowed to fix a date either on or after issue, so that hearings may be appropriately spread out.
- The court will also be able to suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing, which usually would be not more than eight weeks, again to spread out hearings appropriately to ensure that the court has capacity.
Work on the changes has been underway since June, with an emergency working group taking into consideration the practical issues of resuming proceedings, including pre-action conduct, case management, remote working and social distancing, and managing increased volume in possession cases; the position of tenants, landlords, lenders, local authorities, and other court users; and those people who are particularly vulnerable.
As a result, the changes that have been introduced seek to “protect the public and to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to protect all those involved when cases resume and to ensure that the civil justice system is ‘accessible, fair and efficient’”, according to the Government’s explanatory memorandum. They will also “promote best practice and consistency in and related to possession proceedings in the continuing context of the pandemic and the economic situation, as the stay is lifted.”
The memorandum notes that the changes will have an impact on landlords who have been “unable to pursue proceedings for eviction and will be required to demonstrate that they have engaged with their tenants in an effort to find a solution before making a claim”.
However, it also states that, “given the wider circumstances of the public health implications of Covid-19 and the need to prevent homelessness, and the arrangements that have been put in place to support the rented sector, the government believes that the resumption of cases should be handled in a sensitive and proportionate manner.”
This article is based on the government’s Explanatory Memorandum To The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4). It is intended as a guide only and should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, see gov.uk.