Landlord and Tenant Disputes: Procedures Revised as Possession Cases Resume
Early on in the coronavirus crisis, measures were put in to prevent individuals becoming homeless due to financial problems brought on by the pandemic, and therefore a temporary ban was placed on residential landlord and tenant possession proceedings.
The temporary ban was due to end on 23 August, but concern about the risk of eviction rates soaring led to a four-week extension until 20 September. The ban to possession proceedings has now been lifted and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has introduced new forms, procedures and deadlines that must be followed.
Claims brought before 3 August
A new Reactivation Notice (form RNC) valid from 20 September is needed in order to reactivate possession claims brought before 3 August 2020 and all claims brought before that date will continue to be treated as stayed until the notice has been filed. There is no court fee payable to file the notice. Practice Direction 55c sets out the steps required to reactivate currently stayed claims.
A claim will not be listed, relisted or referred to a judge until a party files and serves a ‘Reactivation Notice’ confirming that they wish for the case to proceed. The deadline to file a Reactivation Notice is 29 January 2021, leaving a reasonable amount of time for Landlords to gather up to date information for the purposes of filing the notice. The impact of the pandemic on many tenants’ finances will be a pertinent point as the form of notice includes reference to the impact of the pandemic on the tenant.
Accordingly, a Reactivation Notice will need to detail the landlord’s knowledge of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependants. The landlord should take reasonable steps to ascertain this information before completing the notice.
What landlords must provide:
- Knowledge of the effect of the pandemic upon the Tenant and their dependants.
- An updated rent statement for the previous two years where rent arrears are being claimed, or a statement that the claim does not relate to rent arrears, whichever is applicable.
- If case management directions were made before 21 September, the Claimant must provide new dates for directions and a proposed hearing date. Alternatively, confirmation should be given where existing directions can be met and where an existing hearing date can still be met. Either way, A copy of the previous directions order will need to accompany the notice.
- A written statement indicating whether the case is suitable for hearing by audio/video link.
- Confirmation of the date that the notice was served upon the tenant and by what method.
The landlord will have an opportunity to indicate on the form whether the case qualifies for priority consideration and will be able to provide some additional information in this regard.
The requirement for Reactivation Notices does not apply to claims brought after 3 August or to claims where a final possession order has already been received.
Possession Notices served after 29 August
Relevant parts of the coronavirus legislation temporarily increase, to 6 months, the notice period required when seeking possession of a property under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The extended 6-month period applies until 31 March 2021 and is not retrospective, so will not affect notices served prior to the new notice period coming into force.
The period by which possession proceedings must have been commenced under Section 21 has, however, also been increased, from 6 to 10 months. It is important to note that this increase will apply only to notices served with a 6-month notice period i.e. after the coming into force of the extended notice period. Landlords therefore need to be aware that where notice was given prior to 29th August 2020, the 6-month validity period still applies.
Expert in landlord and tenant issues
Our specialist dispute resolution team is highly experienced in acting on behalf of clients in relation to landlord and tenant issuess, including possession proceedings. We adopt a pragmatic approach when advising clients and resolving disputes. Please contact us at the earliest indication of a breakdown in a landlord and tenant relationship.