Possession proceedings have been stayed since March to protect tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This stay was due to lift on 23 August 2020. Provided landlords filed a reactivation notice compliant with the Civil Procedure Rules, their claims would recommence.
Unfortunately, in a last-minute announcement on Friday 21 August 2020, the Government declared the stay would be extended by a further 4 weeks to 20 September 2020, due to concerns over a potential surge in winter homelessness. This change comes as Shelter England suggests more than 230,000 tenants in England have fallen into rent arrears since the pandemic began, many with no legal recourse to protect them from eviction.
The latest announcement means that landlords are now only able to file a reactivation notice to recommence proceedings from 21 September 2020, at the earliest. This extension applies to all possession claims, and not just those brought because of missed rental payments.
Whilst this extension applies to claims that have already been issued at Court, a further change has also been made in relation to serving a new notice for possession. As of now, if a landlord serves a section 21 or section 8 notice on their tenant, they must now provide a notice period of 6 months. If the tenant fails to leave the property or pay any rent due within the notice period, the landlord is unable to issue their claim for possession at Court until the 6 month notice period has expired, except in such cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
Finally, homeowners facing possession proceedings by mortgage lenders now have access to useful guidance issued by the Financial Conduct Authority. This confirms that possession proceedings will not recommence until 31 October 2020. Action will be taken against any lender who acts in contradiction to this guidance.
At Bell Lax we have significant expertise in residential possession claims and are continually monitoring the situation as it evolves to provide our clients with the most up-to-date advice. To discuss possession proceedings further, please contact our commercial law team on 0121 355 0011.