Evictions expert Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action has urged landlords waiting to re-start possession actions over non-payment of rent dating from before the pandemic to get their paperwork ready now to comply with the new court rules revealed on Friday.
These require that, in order to proceed with existing actions, landlords must inform both the court and their tenant that they wish to resume their claim by serving a ‘reactivation notice’.
Landlord Action has approximately 500 cases ‘stayed’ in the system and is ensuring its clients have their reactivation notices served to the courts as soon as possible once they re-open, although there are believed to be 5,700 such cases in the system in total.
Reactivation notices are part of several rule changes laid before parliament on Friday within the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 that add a ‘Covid temporary provision’ to existing regulations.
“The reason behind this is to ensure the court’s time is used effectively and on the right cases after hearing begin on 24th August,” says Paul Offley, the Guild of Property Professionals’ Compliance Officer.
“If the matter has been resolved through another means, the case can be withdrawn, something the government is encouraging landlords to do rather than pursuing non-priority cases through the courts.”
As well as reactivation notices, landlords must provide a court with relevant details regarding the tenant’s circumstances. This must include the effect of the pandemic on the tenant and his or her dependants, so that the court can consider vulnerability, disability, social security position and those who are shielding.
Landlords must also provide a list of the full arrears history before the hearing.
Although these rules are reasonable on the face of it, the realities of both social distancing in courts, which mean they will no longer be able to offer the usual ‘block listings’, and the extra time all this paperwork will add to the process, mean many landlords face additional time and expense before they can regain possession.
“Many will struggle to find out what their tenant’s current situation because the relationship has totally broken down and that’s why it’s ended up in court,” says Shamplina.
“These new processes will therefore be hard for landlords to implement, and of course the landlord cannot harass the tenant to get the information if they are unforthcoming.
“Unfortunately for many landlords who have already been waiting for months to regain possession before the pandemic it will be pot luck – some courts will have huge backlogs while others will not.”