A Practice Direction Update to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, will significantly impact all housing possession proceedings throughout the United Kingdom.
Housing possession proceedings suspended
Under the Practice Direction Update, all housing possession proceedings (both currently in the system and cases about to be entered into the system) brought under CPR Part 55, including applications to enforce an order for possession via a warrant or writ of possession, are to be suspended for 90 days (this length of time may well be extended) from 27th March 2020.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who published the decision which was taken by the master of the rolls, stated that this enforced measure aims to provide protection to renters, and also those who have mortgages and licences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The Ministry, in their announcement, stated the following:
“From…27 March 2020…following a decision by the master of the rolls with the lord chancellors agreement, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed.”
This news follows the legislation that was previously announced which protects residential tenants (in social and rented accommodation) from being evicted from their properties. However, this legislation did not provide protection to tenants who had already been served notice.
Housing charity, Shelter, commented at the time that roughly 20,000 cases were due to go through the system and that these tenants would still face eviction. However, this newly announced measure will legally pause these cases for the time-being.
The impact of the coronavirus will probably result in a number of tenants being unable to pay their rent, but whilst this new measure will provide them with protection, they will still be liable to pay their rent. If they are struggling to do this, then tenants are being encouraged to speak to their landlords concerning their situation.
The Practice Direction Update means that no new housing possession claims will be processed for 90 days, however, many believe that new possession claims and warrants still need to be sent to the Courts sooner rather than later.
This is because once things return to normal, the Courts will be commencing with work on the backlog of new claims and warrants, once suspended hearings and evictions have been relisted.
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