Part 55 Possession Proceedings can now resume as of 23 August 2020, subject to Practice Direction 55C. Until 23 August, all possession proceedings had been stayed by CPR rule 55.29, however under the new Practice Direction, proceedings can now be recommenced provided certain formalities have been complied with.
The changes affect claims for possession by landlords, mortgagees, licensors, possession claims against a trespasser or claims by tenants seeking relief from forfeiture and are in force for the period of 23 August 2020 to 28 March 2021.
A summary of the main changes are outlined below.
Unless the court directs otherwise, no claim currently stayed pursuant to CPR part 55 is to be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge under rule 55.15 until one of the parties files a written notice (a ‘reactivation notice’). Note that this rule does not apply to any claims brought on or after 3 August 2020 or where a final order for possession has been made.
A reactivation notice must include:
- Confirmation that the party filing and serving the notice wishes for the case to be listed, relisted, heard or referred; and
- Except in appeal proceedings, set out what knowledge the party has as to the effect of the pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.
Except in appeal proceedings, where the reactivation notice is served and the claim is for rent arrears, the Claimant must provide an updated rent account for the previous two years.
Unless the court orders otherwise, any trial date set before 27 March 2020 will be vacated and the case stayed unless the above provisions have been complied with no less than 42 days before the hearing date.
If no reactivation notice has been served by 4pm on 29 January 2021, the claim will automatically be stayed.
The court must give at least 21 days’ notice to the parties of any hearing listed or relisted in response to a reactivation notice unless the court directs otherwise.
Stayed claims where case management directions have been made
Where a case has had case management directions made before 23 August 2020, the party filing and serving a reactivation notice must also serve with it:
- A copy of the last directions order together with new dates for compliance with the directions taking account of the stay before 23 August 2020; and
- i) A draft order setting out additional or alternative directions which are required; or
- ii) A statement in writing that no new directions are required and that an existing hearing date can be met; and
- A statement in writing as to whether the case is suitable for hearing by video or audio link.
If the other parties do not agree with any of the matters in paragraphs a) to c) above, they must file and serve a response within 14 days of service of the reactivation notice.
If no party has complied with the requirements to serve documents a) to c) above by 4.00 p.m. on 29 January 2021, the claim will be automatically stayed.
New claims brought on or after 3 August 2020
Any claim (whether a new or stayed claim) brought on or after 3 August 2020, the Claimant must:
- Bring to the hearing two copies of a notice:
- in a claim to which the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords is applicable, confirming that the Claimant has complied with that Pre-Action Protocol and detailing how the Claimant has done so; and
- in all claims, setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants; and
- serve on the Defendant not less than 14 days prior to the hearing the notices referred to in sub-paragraph (a) setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.
In any claim (whether a new claim or a stayed claim) brought on or after 3 August 2020 to which Section II of Part 55 applies the Claimant must file the claim form for service with a notice setting out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.
The changes illustrate the focus on vulnerability as a result of the pandemic and it seems clear that the additional requirements will add a layer of delay into any court proceedings.