This article applies to England and Wales.

The government has announced that all ongoing housing possession actions are suspended from today (27 March 2020) for initially 90 days. The 90 days can be extended if necessary.

The suspension will affect all possession claims where a court order is required including assured shorthold tenancies and will also include mortgage possession claims.

A landlord with a notice about to expire cannot start possession proceedings during this 90 day period.

From … 27 March 2020 … following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellors agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales.

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.

If you already have a claim in the system, it will simply stay at the position it is now until the end of the 90 days (or extended date) after which it will start again from the point it was at.

Giles Peaker on the Nearly Legal blog said:

… Let us be clear, this is effectively an administrative decision by the senior judiciary. It is just a suspension, for a period of time. Everything will restart, in the same position (and possibly a worse position) as soon as the suspension is lifted.

The guidance also reminds landlords:

Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords.

Update 27 March 2020
A new Civil Procedure Practice Direction 51Z has been issued which confirms the announcement above. The practice direction also includes all enforcement of a possession order so that means all bailiff activity is also included in the ban and is suspended as of today (27 March 2020). The practice direction says:

This Practice Direction supplements Part 51

1. This practice direction is made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”). It is intended to assess modifications to the rules and Practice Directions that may be necessary during the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to ensure that the administration of justice, including the enforcement of orders, is carried out so as not to endanger public health. As such it makes provision to stay proceedings for, and to enforce, possession. It ceases to have effect on 30 October 2020.

2. All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession by a warrant or writ of possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from the date this Direction comes into force.

3. For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay in paragraph 2.


Update 20 April 2020

The practice direction has been further update with effect from 20 April 2020 which allows trespasser claims to still continue (so not affected by the suspension of possession claims) along with an application for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties.

There is also clarity that claims for possession can be made during the period of suspension (but nothing will happen and the claim will be stayed until the end of the 90 days or later if extended).

Paragraph 2 does not apply to—


(a) a claim against trespassers to which rule 55.6 applies;


(b) an application for an interim possession order under Section III of Part 55, including the making of such an order, the hearing required by rule 55.25(4), and any application made under rule 55.28(1); or


(c) an application for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties.


3. For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay in paragraph 2, and the fact that a claim to which paragraph 2 applies will be stayed does not preclude the issue of such a claim.


The revised practice direction can be found here.