On Wednesday, it was announced that the “Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings” came to an end on 1 November 2021.

While the announcement seems like welcome news, suggesting that review hearings and enhanced information are no longer needed, there is still uncertainty around how the changes can be reconciled with court rules.

Below, we set out the current position in line with the statement and suggest practical guidance on how you can apply this to your possession cases.

What you were required to do under the temporary arrangements

The “Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings” were published on 17 September 2020 in response to the end of the stay of proceedings in possession cases following the pandemic.

Most importantly, the Overall Arrangements required landlords to:

  • file and serve a Reactivation Notice
  • set out what knowledge they have as to the effect of the pandemic on the tenant and their dependants;
  • participate in review hearings prior to substantive hearings.

All of this added a level of complexity, cost and delay.

What has changed?

The key wording of the 3 November 2021 statement is as follows:

The procedures to be followed for the future are those set out in Rules and Practice Directions. The informal guidance published in the “Overall Arrangements” document should no longer be viewed as governing or guiding court procedures, which are properly contained in Rules and Practice Directions or listing policies which are a matter for Designated Civil Judges to decide in the light of local conditions.

Interestingly though the Overall Arrangements are broadly reflected within the wording of Practice Direction 55C, which provides for temporary modification of the court rules relating to possession claims until 30 November 2021 (”the interim period”) during which time the court rules have effect subject to it.

What this means for you

Unless and until the court rules are updated to reflect the statement so as to end the interim period on 1 November, you may have to continue to abide by those parts of the Overall Arrangements that are reflected in the Practice Direction until the end of this month.

The good news for landlords is that, coupled with the recent change to notices seeking possession, the method of obtaining possession will soon be broadly returning to how it was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if that change isn’t immediate, we should be pretty much back to normal by the end of the month.

What is currently unclear is whether these changes will apply to existing cases as well as new matters. Our initial view is that the wording of the statement suggests that it does, but it may be worth checking with your courts for your existing matters.

The next steps for landlords

If you can wait until December to issue a case, you might be able to avoid the time and expense of complying with all of the extra requirements that were introduced in response to the pandemic. We would recommend waiting out the interim period ending on 30 November, rather than running the risk of becoming a test case following the statement.

For those cases that cannot wait, we suggest adopting a cautious approach and continuing to comply with the Practice Direction so as to avoid the risk of a challenge.

How Capsticks can help

As always, the housing management team at Capsticks will be keeping an eye on any legislative change and will continue to update you as the law evolves. We are well placed to continue to help you deal with cases swiftly and are in regular contact with your local courts to know common practices. Our values reflect your priorities – we care about what we do and aim to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

If you have any queries around what's discussed in this article, and the impact on your organisation, please speak to Steven Wood or Michael Owen to find out more about how Capsticks can help.