The moratorium on possession proceedings, which was introduced by the Government in late March, has been lifted. However, for those proceedings that now take place, they will feel very different to those that took place in the pre-COVID era.
The first major change is to the pre-action notice period, which for new cases is now six months. For older cases including those where notice was given between March and August, the notice period is also six months, subject to certain exceptions.
Once proceedings are issued, there are new procedural steps which must also be taken. For older cases that have been suspended, this includes the service of a reactivation notice, which gives formal notice to the Defendant that the proceedings will be resumed. New rules mean that stayed cases will need this notice before a judge will consider them. In addition, any cases that do not have a notice served within a certain date, will be indefinitely postponed until permission is given from a judge.
A new procedural step is also being introduced. This is known as a Review Date and would appear to be an administrative review by the Court, to enable the claim to be set down for a substantive hearing after 28 days. At the review date, the Court will consider the claim and either list it for hearing, dismiss it or give directions. It will also be possible for a Defendant to seek duty advice on the Review Date.
The Final Hearing, if it proceeds, will be along the lines of a standard hearing which will last approximately 15 minutes. At the conclusion of the hearing, a judge will decide whether to make a possession order, adjourn the case with further directions or dismiss it.
In summary, the new procedure for possession claims will be substantially different to the system in place prior to the pandemic. However, the basic principles of requiring a judicial order, and the grounds for possession, will remain substantially unchanged. Landlords are therefore recommended to seek expert advice to help them navigate the procedural changes and have the best chance of success in Court.
If you are a landlord seeking advice on how to resolve an issue with your tenant, our solicitors would be pleased to assist. We offer a fixed fee meeting at £95 including VAT in which we can discuss your issue and offer you some preliminary advice. We would encourage all meetings to be held remotely where possible and offer both telephone and video conferencing options. To book a meeting please either call on 0118 958 9711 or email [email protected]
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Chris Miller works alongside Justin Sadler in the Litigation Department on a wide range of civil litigation matters including Debt Collection and possession claims, as well as assisting with contentious probate matters.