Eviction hearings resume in Courts across England and Wales, with the most serious cases being be given priority.
From today, the temporary coronavirus ban of residential evictions by way or a Writ or Warrant in accordance with CPR 55.29 has been lifted, meaning that all new and existing property possession matters may proceed. However, new extended minimum notice periods for notices requiring possession of residential premises let on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) now apply. Landlords seeking to recover possession of their properties between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 should be mindful of changes to the notice periods. Restrictions will remain in local lockdown areas and over Christmas.
What does this mean for landlords and tenants?
For new claims in which landlords are seeking to evict tenants, in most cases the landlord will have to provide 6 months’ notice to their tenant(s) by way of Section 21 Notice. If after this time the tenant(s) remain in occupation, landlords can proceed to request a Possession Order. All existing claims made before 3 August 2020 will not be listed, so if landlord still wish to proceed they are now required to file a Reactivation Notice informing the County Court of their intention.
Similarly, for any cases where hearing dates were listed before 21 September 2020, a Reactivation Notice is to be filed at the County Court requesting a new hearing date. Likewise, if a hearing date has been listed for a date in the future (after 21 September 2020) a Reactivation Notice is required to be filed to the County Court to confirm if this is still required and can be attended. If the claimant can no longer attend this hearing, a new date is to be requested.
Transfer to the High Court for enforcement
Once a Possession Order has been granted and should the tenant(s) fail to vacate the premises by the date stated on the Order, landlords can apply for permission to transfer possession proceedings to the High Court for enforcement to avoid delays associated with the county court bailiffs.
The transfer process remains unchanged, in that an application to the County Court is required under Section 42(2) of the County Court Act 1984. Upon a transfer request being authorised, an application to the High Court for permission to issue a Writ of Possession can then be made. However, an N54 Notice of Eviction is required to be sent to the tenants(s) in accordance with CPR 83.8A which requires no less than 14 days notice of eviction to be given when writs and warrants of possessions are executed (except in cases involving possession orders against trespassers who never had consent to enter or remain on the land).
The Regulations provide for exceptions where the following shorter notice periods will apply before possession proceedings can be issued at court:
- Immediately after service of the notice under ground 14 (nuisance, annoyance, immoral or illegal tenant);
- Two weeks' notice under grounds 14A (domestic violence between tenants of a registered social or charitable housing landlord), 14ZA (conviction riots) and 17 (tenancy granted as a result of false statements);
- Four weeks' notice where there are at least six months' rent unpaid and grounds 8 (rent arrears), 10 (some rent due) or 11 (persistent delays in rent payment) apply;
- Four weeks' notice under ground 7A (convictions and anti-social behaviour); and
- Three months' notice under grounds 7B (immigration status) and 7 (tenant death).
What impact will this have?
While this may come as good news for landlords suffering financial difficulties from non-paying tenants, delays are to be expected for any new possession claims while the courts look to process the backlog of cases. A recent survey by homelessness charity Shelter suggested that more than 170,000 private tenants had been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent, while 230,000 in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started. It is also important that COVID 19 precautions are considered, ensuring that evictions do not proceed in local lockdowns areas.
The new procedure is intended to afford tenants the opportunity to either reach arrangements with landlords to settle overdue rent payments or at least the time to find alternative accommodation, avoiding a combined wave of pressure on housing authorities and homelessness. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together and towards reaching resolutions before commencing possession proceedings.