Update on New Requirements for Residential Repossession Proceedings
Kate Barnes, Partner and Solicitor at Kerseys provides an update on new requirements for Residential Repossession Proceedings.
Proposed Increase in Notices to End a Tenancy to six months
The halt on residential repossession proceedings introduced by the Government in March, and subsequently extended, was due to end on 23 August 2020. At the very last minute, on the 21 August, it was extended by a further 4 weeks.
This means that residential repossession claims, of all sorts, will not proceed through the courts and also that bailiffs cannot be instructed to repossess, if an order has been made, until at least 20 September 2020.
When the stay was introduced in March proceedings that were already “in the system” were put on hold (“stayed”) and since then the courts have accepted papers for new repossessions but these have been immediately stayed before any action was taken on them.
Due to Covid-19 there is new information to be provided to the court
In anticipation of the halt being lifted the court introduced some rules about what landlords need to do to reactivate their claim. For claims already issued they need to send the court a “reactivation notice” to inform the court that they wish the claim to proceed and saying what knowledge they have of the “effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the defendant and their dependants”.
With fresh claims being issued a notice relating to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant has to be sent to the court with the claim.
It is difficult to assess what effects these notices will have on the court proceedings because if the claim is brought under a correctly served Section 21 notice or is brought under what is known as the “Section 8” provisions regarding to arrears of rent the court has no discretion as to whether to issue the repossession order or not. However, it seems likely that the court would refuse to determine the claim either on paper or at a hearing if this provision has not been complied with thereby delaying its progress.
What information the landlord has about the tenant and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic will depend very much on the relationship the landlord has with the tenant and what information they have exchanged since March.
Notices to end tenancy
The extension of time for notices to be served extending both to Section 21 and Section 8 notices to three months continues for of all new notices served before 20 September 2020.
In the announcement on 21 August 2020, along with the extension on the ban on residential possession proceedings, the government announced its intention:
to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March”.
It is not yet clear when this change will take place as it appears to require amendments to the Housing Act 1988.
Is action possible?
Although the courts are not yet processing repossession claims if you do have tenants who you have problems with or wish to take action against please do let me know and I can advise as to the best next steps to take. It may be that a notice can be served or maybe proceeding sent to the court in anticipation of the ban being lifted.
If you require any assistance, please do contact me at [email protected] or alternatively telephone Ipswich 01473 213311 or Colchester 01206 584584 and I or a member of my team will be happy to arrange a telephone call or virtual online meeting with you.