The ‘stay’ that stayed, stays longer: possession cases now stayed until 23 August 202008/06/20
The period of the stay imposed by CPR PD51Z has been extended until 23 August 2020 (see our earlier articles on CPR PD 51Z here).
The stay had already survived a challenge to its legality (see our insight on the Arkin case), been extended to exclude claims against certain categories of trespasser (see insight here) and been found to apply to appeals concerning possession cases under CPR Part 55 (see our insight on the Okoro case).
At the same time as announcing the extension of CPR PD51Z, the MHCLG also announced that government:
- will introduce new court rules to ensure that vulnerable tenants will be protected when the suspension of evictions ends;
- is committed to ensuring that no one is evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus.
(See the press announcement here.)
The press release also indicated that the head civil judge, the Master of the Rolls, has convened a working group led by members of the judiciary - with cross-sector involvement - to consider the preparations that will be necessary for hearing possession cases once the stay is lifted.
It is said that the group will consider the rules, guidance (including to private landlords as well as social landlords), the provision of information and the sharing of best practice.
What does this mean in practice for housing providers?
The upshot is that possession cases will have been suspended for period of five months in total. Where tenants are engaging in anti-social behaviour and making the lives of their neighbours a misery during what are already difficult times for many, injunctions – with the power to exclude in appropriate cases – remain available to providers.
Changes to CPR PD51Z made in April enable the courts to deal with applications for orders for case management directions, where those directions are agreed. Where it is not possible to agree directions, we strongly urge providers to ‘get their side of the fence in order’: prepare disclosure, give that disclosure (whether ordered to requested), prepare witness statements and updating witness statements and make your case as trial ready as you can.
We also recommend pointing defendants in the direction the government’s website on how to find legal aid advice in housing matters, which can be found here.
That way, providers should be able to ask for tighter trial timetables than might otherwise be the case, particularly if they are almost all but ready for trial themselves.
How can Capsticks help?
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.