This weekend saw two developments of importance to social housing providers preparing for the anticipated lifting of the stay on possession proceedings (see earlier insights here). We review the new Practice Direction* on dealing with possession cases, the opening of Nightingale Courts and what this means for registered providers (RPs) below.

What is the new Practice Direction?

First, The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 were laid before Parliament on 17 July 2020. The rules amend Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules to give effect to a forthcoming Practice Direction (‘CPR PD55C’), which it appears will make temporary arrangements regarding possession cases that will apply between the stay being lifted on 23 August 2020 and 28 March 2021.

Whilst the Practice Direction itself is – at time of writing – not yet published, the explanatory notes highlight that it will include:

  • “a requirement for a claimant 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.”

Opening of ‘Nightingale Courts’

Secondly, on Sunday, 19 July 2020, the Lord Chancellor announced the first of ten locations which will open as temporary courts - dubbed ‘Nightingale Courts’ – with work ongoing to identify additional suitable locations.

Of those ten locations, the following five sites are expected to hear civil cases:

  • The former County Court at Telford, Shropshire
  • Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage
  • Cloth Hall Court, Leeds
  • Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside
  • East Pallant House, Chichester

It is expected that all of the venues will be hearing cases by the beginning of August 2020.

Last week, the Lord Chancellor outlined additional measures being considered, including longer court opening times and the continued use of video technology to hear cases.

How can we help you?

We remain well placed to continue to help you deal with cases swiftly and are in regular contact with your local courts to keep a finger on the pulse of any differing practices they are adopting.

If you have any queries around what is discussed in this article, or the steps that you can take in any given case, please do not hesitate to speak to Simon Strelitz, or any of your contacts at Capsticks, to find out more about how we can help.

*Please note: CPR PD55C was published on the Judiciary's website on 21 July. Part two of the insight will be available shortly here.