The suspension to possession proceedings in England & Wales is due to be lifted on 20 September 2020. For landlords that are waiting for proceedings to resume, or landlords that wish to begin the eviction process, there are now new rules and procedures that must be followed.
The notice periods for serving Section 21 and Section 8 notices have been amended. For all notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 inclusive, the minimum notice period required is six months, save for limited circumstances. For example, when serving a Section 8 notice citing Ground 8, if the arrears are six months or more, then only four weeks’ notice period is required before proceedings can commence.
If a Section 8 notice is served citing Grounds 14ZA, 14A or 17, then only two weeks’ notice is required. There are further exceptions and advice should be sought to determine whether a particular case would qualify for a reduced notice period.
Providing the wrong notice period may render the notice invalid, meaning that the claim may be struck out at court and a new notice required.
New claim forms have been released by the government. These can be found on the government website. If the wrong or out of date form is used, this may cause unnecessary delays and could ultimately result in the claim being struck out. The best practice is to obtain the most recent form from the government website and if in doubt, seek advice about the correct form.
Changes to pre-action protocol
For any new or stayed claims brought on or after 3 August 2020, a landlord must provide at the possession hearing two copies of a notice setting out their knowledge on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant, and at least fourteen days’ prior to the hearing, serve a copy on the tenant.
For stayed claims brought before 3 August 2020 (and where no possession order has been granted), a landlord must file and serve a ‘reactivation notice’. The notice is provided on the government website and includes questions such as a landlord’s knowledge on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant.
If the claim includes a claim for rent arrears, a rent statement for the past two years must also be provided. The reactivation notice also requires a landlord to confirm whether their case qualifies for being prioritised (providing tick-box grounds to be completed). Some grounds include cases where the rent arrears are equal to at least 12 months’ or cases involving domestic violence.
If no reactivation notice is filed / served by 29 January 2021, the claim will be automatically stayed.
Once a reactivation notice is filed and served (except for accelerated claims), a review date will be set by the Court. 21 days’ notice will be given before the review date. 14 days before the review date, a landlord is required to provide a bundle to the Court and a paper bundle to the tenant (unless an electronic bundle is agreed).
Landlords are required to be available on the review date to discuss the case either with the tenant or their legal representative. The Court will then conduct a 5 minute review (in the absence of the parties) and make directions or approve any consent orders agreed between the parties.
‘Winter truce’ / bailiff restrictions
The government has announced that there will be a ‘winter truce’ in the run up to Christmas, meaning that evictions will not be enforced during this time. At the moment, it is unclear when this will apply, but landlords can expect disruption to their claims in December.
It has also been confirmed that evictions will not be enforced in areas that are subject to a local lockdown.
If you are a landlord that requires assistance with either an ongoing or new possession claim, please do not hesitate to contact the commercial team.
Please call us on 0161 696 6229 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.