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14 August 2020
As regular readers will be aware, CPR 55.29 came into force on 25 June 2020 and extended the stay on possession proceedings and enforcement proceedings by way of a writ or a warrant for possession until 23 August 2020.
Now, the draft Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 (the "Rules") provide for a further amendment to CPR Part 55, to introduce a new temporary Practice Direction (PD 55C) which sets out how claims under that Part (including appeals) are to proceed following the expiry of the stay.
The draft Rules are expected to come into force on 23 August 2020 but are subject to final approval and amendment.
The provisions encapsulated in the Rules relate partly to the resumption of proceedings following lifting of the stay and partly to new cases issued after the stay has ceased.
The Rules seek to manage the backlog of cases which will have accrued during the stay in tandem with the anticipated flood of new cases post the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and to deal with matters fairly in particular where the pandemic may have affected tenants' circumstances:
PD 55C will expire on 28 March 2021 - so these Rules are (currently) temporary in nature.
It is clear, and understandable, that the Government is keen that the resumption of cases should be handled in a sensitive and proportionate manner, given the public health implications of the pandemic and the need to prevent homelessness.
This should however be balanced against a landlord's right to regain possession of its property, in respect of which the landlord may have issued a claim on mandatory grounds for possession some four months previously.
One alternative could be for landlords and tenants to instead consider mediation in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute, without the matter needing to go to court. Whether this is practically a viable option for many landlords remains to be seen.
Whilst the Rules are unlikely to have much of an effect on the outcome of Section 21 or mandatory Ground 8 rent arrears claims, we anticipate serious delay before the courts have capacity to hear 'non-priority' cases, such as no-fault evictions – but just how long they will have to wait will largely depend on the capacity and working arrangements of the individual courts.
For further information on this topic please contact Eleanor Murray or Laura Cole at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP by telephone (+44 20 7367 3000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP website can be accessed at cms.law.
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