The stay on possession proceedings in England and Wales ended on 20 September meaning landlords can now resume action, but steps have been put in place to better control the system.
The practice note entitled The Overall Arrangements for Possession Claims in England and Wales, outlines how proceedings will work and includes several key points, the firm explained.
It emphasises that no possession proceedings should be commenced or re-started without landlords and tenants having first sought to reach a compromise wherever possible.
Existing claims issued prior to 3 August will not be listed, relisted or referred to a judge until a Reactivation Notice has been served confirming the wish to proceed.
Certain claims will be prioritised if they meet the criteria, for example if arrears are equal to at least one year’s rent or where there is anti-social behaviour.
Landlords are required to set out their knowledge of the effect of coronavirus on the tenant and their dependents, as well as providing a rent account for the last two years where the claim relates to rental arrears.
Cases can also be marked as Covid-19-related and so accelerated or delayed depending if the landlord or tenant can show resulting hardship from the pandemic.
Enforcement of possession orders will not proceed where there are local lockdown measures in place to protect public health or over the Christmas period, other than in serious cases.
Samuel Lane, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, highlighted the Covid-19 marking would be contentious with both parties likely to be keen to have the claim marked in their favour and was, along with other measures, creating further work for an already over-worked system.
“It is likely that some claims may take up to, if not in excess of, 18 months to resolve from the date a notice is issued to the date that possession is achieved, if bailiffs are required,” he said.
“This belief arises from Section 21 Notices now requiring a six month notice period as opposed to the usual two months pre pandemic, and this document from the working party which provides that an application to instruct high court enforcement agents ‘may not be able to be treated as a high priority’.
“Overall, this document is tenant focussed which is understandable as the government and judicial system are keen to avoid a homelessness crisis, but it is likely to cause severe delays in possession being obtained.
“However, from a landlord’s perspective; the stay on possession proceedings is now finally lifted, and compromise is to be encouraged between the parties to facilitate an amicable agreement without the tenant being considered intentionally homeless.”