UPDATED: How the changes to the possession action process impact new and existing claims

    20 July 2020

    All claimants are now required to provide the courts with information about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their tenants as part of the temporary changes to the possession action process.

    This article was published on 24 September 2020. Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.

    The Government has issued guidance on the temporary changes to possession proceedings, which will remain in place in England and Wales until at least 28 March 2021. 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'”. The government warns that many cases have built up during the six-month suspension period and courts are still not operating at their full capacity, which means in most cases it will take longer than eight weeks for claims to be heard. A "winter truce" on evictions also means that no evictions will take place between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021.

    Claims for possession made before 3 August 2020

    If you have an outstanding Warrant of Possession

    If you have a Warrant of Possession but no longer require an eviction to be carried out, let the court know as soon as possible that you don't want the eviction to go ahead.

    Eviction appointments which were cancelled as a result of coronavirus will be rescheduled. When setting eviction dates, bailiffs will prioritise those previously identified as priority cases. Otherwise, warrants will be prioritised in date order. A notice of the eviction appointment will be sent to both the landlord and tenant. Appointments will be scheduled with 14 days’ notice and the tenant will be able to apply to suspend the eviction.

    If you have a Possession Order and the date on which the tenant was due to give up possession has passed, but you have not yet applied for a Warrant of Possession

    If you have a Possession Order and the date on which the tenant was due to give up possession has passed, but you haven't yet applied for a Warrant of Possession, you should "carefully consider whether you wish to proceed with the eviction". You are still able to apply for a Warrant of Possession, but the eviction may take longer than usual.

    You don't need to do anything if you decide not to seek an eviction at once and you will still be able to rely on the Possession Order if you decide to take your property back at a later date. You can apply for a Warrant of Possession at any time during the period of six years after the date a Possession Order is made.

    If you have made a claim but have not yet had a court hearing

    If you made a claim for possession before 3 August 2020, you will need to inform the court if you wish to proceed by sending a completed reactivation notice to the court and to your tenant via email or post. If you made a claim for possession before 3 August 2020 and do not inform the court that you wish to continue, your case will not proceed. 

    The reactivation notice must include any information you have about how the tenant and any dependants have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. If your claim concerns rent arrears, you will also need to provide an updated rent account for the past two years. You must provide both the reactivation notice, and information about the effects of the pandemic, for your claim to proceed.

    You will have six months in which to inform the court that you wish to proceed with your case. If you haven't served a reactivation notice by 4pm on 29 January 2021, your case will be stayed and you'll need to make a formal application to restore it. 

    If you have multiple claims at the same court, you must provide a reactivation notice for each claim, but you can file them with a covering letter detailing all of the cases, which should include:

    • all issued and suspended cases by case number
    • which cases you want to continue and which cases you want to be further suspended or dismissed
    • a ranking of the cases you wish to continue by priority (high, medium, low)

    If the court has made case management directions in your case (for example at an initial hearing)

    If you have received case management directions, you will need to file a reactivation notice (see above). You will also need to attach either:

    • a draft order setting out additional or alternative directions (including proposing a new hearing date); or
    • a statement in writing that no new directions are required and that an existing hearing date can be met.

    Claims for possession made on or after 3 August 2020

    If you made a claim for possession on or after 3 August, it will be processed in due course. You won't need to provide a reactivation notice, but you should provide information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on your tenant. If you haven't done this, you should provide this information to the court as soon as possible.

    This article is based on the government's guidance and is intended as a guide only. It should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, see Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England and Wales at gov.uk.

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