The government has confirmed to LandlordZONE that its much-discussed pre-action protocol for the evictions process has been shelved for the time being.
This follows last Friday’s announcement that it is instead introducing more basic pre-action rules for landlords that nevertheless must be met before a possession hearing can be continued or granted.
These come into force on 23rd August, the same day the eviction ban ends, and will apply to both existing action and new ones requiring landlords to:
- Provide a ‘reactivation notice’ informing the court and tenant in writing without which the case will remain dormant.
- Consider that if the action is about the non-payment of rent, the claim must set out what knowledge if any the landlord has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependants
- Produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing – this is encouraged rather than required.
The rules also suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing which would usually be not more than eight weeks.
These pre-action rules are in effect a ‘lite’ version of a protocol, although the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says that: “We remain interested in exploring the introduction of a pre-action protocol for private tenants in the future.
“New court rules – in place until end March 2021 – will require landlords to set out information about a tenant’s circumstances, including the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on a tenant’s vulnerability, when bringing a possession claim,” an MHCLG spokesperson says.
“Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings until such information is provided.
“This encourages landlords to have the right conversations with tenants before seeking repossession – helping to achieve the aims of a pre-action protocol. Through guidance, we are also encouraging landlords to agree to rent repayment plans or rent flexibilities where possible.”
Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action says: “Using pre-action rules like this makes sense, but I really worry that landlords who have been waiting months from before Covid to evict tenants who haven’t been paying their rent, are going to struggle to re-engage and find out how Covid has affected their tenants.
“It is not practical and the chances of the tenant playing ball all pretty slim. So landlords are going to struggle to fulfil the pre-action rules and get their hearing.”