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Extension of stay to possession proceedings during Coronavirus outbreak

Since 27 March 2020, all new and existing possession proceedings against residential tenants have been automatically stayed, under an amendment made to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 by the introduction of Practice Direction 51Z.

The stay was brought in for an initial period of 90 days from 27 March 2020.  However, the Government announced on 5 June 2020, that the stay on possession proceedings will be extended for a further two months until 23 August 2020.

The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 have been amended to include a new CPR Rule 55.29 (from the expiry of the current stay on 25 June 2020) staying possession proceedings to 23 August 2020. This means that any proceedings sent to the Court for issue will immediately be stayed and cannot continue until after the stay has expired, at the earliest in August 2020.

The Government’s press release on 5 June 2020 suggests that the stay may not be extended for any further period beyond 23 August 2020 as the Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP stated that “Eviction hearings will not be heard in Courts until the end of August and no-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus”.  However, there is a power to grant further extensions, if the position changes.

The Courts are taking steps to prepare for possession hearings to resume after the stay is lifted. Traditionally, these hearings have taken place within the Courts as a block list with a number of hearings scheduled at the same time. It is likely that hearings will take place remotely either via a web-based platform or telephone but there may be different considerations between Courts at a local level.  When the stay is lifted, there is likely to be a significant backlog within the Court system.  The judiciary has set up a working group to consider the practical issues arising from possession hearings in advance of the lifting of the stay.

Landlords are also currently restricted under the Coronavirus Act 2020 from serving notices to terminate certain residential tenancies until 30 September 2020 (with a power within the legislation for this date to be extended).  This restriction applies to the service of Section 21 Notices and Section 8 Notices to terminate Assured Shorthold Tenancies and requires a landlord to give at least 3 months’ notice in the prescribed form.

We will be tracking the latest developments on our Essential Residential hub.

Please do not hesitate to contact Lauren Fraser, Laura Bushaway or any member of the Real Estate Disputes team if you have any queries.  This insight is not a substitute for legal advice on the specific circumstances of the case.

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