Helen Tucker analyses the latest developments in relation to possession proceedings and evictions.
Re-arranged evictions – reduce notice period to tenants
In 2020 the court rules were changed to require that all residential tenants must be given 14 days’ notice of an eviction. What happens though if the eviction is cancelled on the day? This might be due to e.g.
- the occupiers self-isolating or having covid symptoms and the bailiff therefore deciding not to proceed, or
- a warrant suspension application being heard so late or close to the eviction date/ time that the eviction slot is lost even if the suspension application is unsuccessful.
The court rules are being changed from 7 August to deal with this. CPR 83.8A(2) is being amended to provide to the occupiers a further minimum of 7 days’ notice of eviction if the first eviction does not take place as intended. Tenants will, therefore, after 7 August only be entitled to 7 days’ notice of a rearranged eviction.
For the announcement, please follow this link.
Possession Review dates – here till November 2021 and then?
The new temporary arrangements for Review dates (R) and Substantive hearings (S) introduced in 2020 were due to end at the end of July 2021. These provisions, found in Practice Direction 55C have now been extended until the end of November 2021. (Same announcement as above)
The bigger question is of course is whether R dates (and don't call them hearings!) and S dates are here to stay?
Having attended a court users group meeting for a West Midlands group of courts recently, the judges confirmed that they have no information on this yet. There was speculation however that R dates would probably end and the requirements that a landlord has to prove (e.g. provide a pre-action protocol compliance notice and a bundle) would become administrative requirements that either a Judge or in due course a court officer will check the landlord has done, either to get the case issued or listed for its first hearing. One to watch.
No news sadly on any updates to PCOL to work with R dates.
Housing officers attending court
At the same court users group meeting there was judicial concern about housing officers or income officers attending court who had not been trained in possession procedures and did not know how to properly address the court. In view of the seriousness of possession hearings, the judges discouraged informality both in the way the court was addressed and in dress codes.
Covid safety measures in court
At a webinar by senior HMCTS (court service) staff at the end of July, it was made clear that covid safety measures will continue for now with all court users being asked to continue to wear masks in court buildings and enhanced cleaning measures remaining in place for some months yet.
To change the limits on the numbers of people permitted in each courtroom fresh risk assessments must be done. As a result changes to the number of courtrooms available (which would help improve listing timescales and reduce backlogs) and the numbers of people who can attend hearings may still take some time to filter through and changes may depend on covid infection levels nationally.