This is a quick note about new court rules which will apply after the suspension on possession proceedings is lifted because the meat of the rules has not yet been published.

The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 are set to commence on 23 August 2020.

In essence, all these rules say is that there will be a new Practice Direction 55C and that will make provision for how claims are to proceed following the expiry of the stay.

Practice Direction 55C is not yet available on the court website and we will update when it’s available.

However, the explanatory memorandum to the new rules gives a glimpse of what to expect.

It explains that the new arrangements will be in place until 28 March 2021 (which can be reviewed) and the provisions include-

  • a requirement for a claimant to inform the court who wishes to resume stayed proceedings to inform the court and defendant in writing of this after the expiry of the stay in a “reactivation notice”;
  • requiring the claimant to provide (in the particulars of claim reactivation notice or for the hearing as appropriate) any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances to include information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and his/her dependants, which will enable the court to have regard to vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”;
  • to allow the court to fix a date either on or after issue (so that hearings may be appropriately spread out and avoiding “bunching”.
  • to suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing which usually would be not more than eight weeks, again to spread out hearings appropriately in particular having regard to court capacity;
  • to require a claimant so far as practicable to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing.

It would seem therefore that if a landlord wishes to continue any claim that had been started, the landlord must complete a “reactivation notice” which must include any relevant information about the tenant’s circumstances on the effect of the pandemic on the tenant.

Also, currently, any hearing must take place not less than 4 weeks and not greater than 8 weeks from issue of the claim (ignoring any time during the stay) but it seems that that period is to be suspended “to spread out hearings appropriately”.

It seems from the information available, the reactivation notice will include any application for the bailiff as well as claims yet to be heard (essentially all claims which have been stayed).

There was talk that the Housing Act 1988 may be amended to make some mandatory claims discretionary but, if these are the only rules published, the mandatory nature of possession under a section 8 notice (ground 8) or a section 21 notice will be unaffected. We will have to wait and see on this.