Today (21 August 2020), it has been announced that the stay on possession claims is to be extended by four weeks from 23 August 2020 until 20 September 2020. As an update, it’s been announced that notice lengths are to be increased to six months.

Extended suspension of possession claims

The extension to the suspension was done on direction by the Lord Chancellor to the Master of the Rolls and the Civil Procedure Rules Committee who agreed by a majority to make the change.

It’s understood the rules bringing in the change will be put forward shortly to Parliament.

In a letter by the Master of the Rolls dated 21 August 2020, it was said:

This 4-week extension to the stay relating to housing possession cases, will allow for further work to be done to prepare for the stay to be lifted which in many respects can be welcomed.

It sounds like more work is going on in the background to decide what to do with the backlog of cases that has no doubt built up during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report by the Guardian, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps had said:

“getting that balance right between the renters and the landlords is something that my colleagues in the housing ministry are working closely on and I think they will make further announcements about it shortly”

And the same article goes on to say:

One source said civil servants and ministers have been considering whether protections could remain in place for people who can show they have fallen behind on their rent because of coronavirus.

We will have to wait and see what happens next but it certainly sounds like something more substantial might be on the horizon and this four week extension to the suspension of possession proceedings is simply giving ministers more time to come up with something.

The change is made by The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020.

Six months notice to be required

Update 21 August 2020: in addition to the extended suspension of claims above, the government have also just announced that notice periods in England will be increased to six months:

The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.

The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.

When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.

This is likely to follow the same as Wales so, all section 21 notices will likely be six months plus section 8 grounds including rent arrears will also be six months notice. The only likely exception will be anti-social behaviour grounds which might remain at 3 months as they did in Wales.

We await the actual changing legislation and will report further when announced.