COVID-19 – THE STATUS OF POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS - (UPDATED JUNE 2020)

Georgian home

Pre-Court Proceedings 

Residential tenancies - From 26 March 2020 a Landlord of a property let out on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must now give 3 months’ notice in the eviction notice (for both a Section 8 and Section 21 notice). 

These new provisions are not retrospective, meaning a Landlord may still rely upon an eviction notice served before 26 March 2020, so long as the Notice has not expired at the time of bringing the claim.
Business tenancies - The right of re-entry for non-payment of rent cannot be enforced until 30 June 2020. For the purpose of these new measures “rent” includes any sum a tenant is liable to pay under its business tenancy including basic rent, service charges or building insurance contributions. Unless a Landlord expressly waives its right to re-enter (in writing), its conduct up until 30 June 2020 will not be treated as waiving its right to re-enter for non-payment of rent. 

Landlords can still exercise re-entry rights in respect of other breaches of covenant, on basis that the new measures explicitly restrict re-entry for non-payment of rent. However in issuing a Section 146 Notice for non-rental breaches, the Landlord must provide a ‘reasonable’ period of time for the breach to be remedied. This should factor in that a Tenant may face difficulties in rectifying the breach, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions, so additional time should be given in the Section 146 notice.

Within Court Proceedings

Both residential and business tenancies - A new Practice Direction has come into force since the coronavirus outbreak that affects possession claims. PD 51Z has the effect of preventing all possession proceedings for 90 days from 27 March 2020 by imposing an automatic stay. Save for a few exceptions (such as proceedings against trespassers), this means that ongoing cases or those just about to begin cannot progress to the stage where a tenant can be evicted as the Court will put it on hold.

Enforcement

Both residential and business tenancies - Practice Direction 51Z also puts a 90 day stay on enforcement of possession orders from 27 March 2020. If a Landlord has already obtained a possession order then they will be prevented from getting bailiffs in to enforce it.

Summary and further update

For any possession proceedings that are in Court at the moment, we are advising Landlords that they are going to face long delays to evict tenants due to the automatic stay on proceedings. 

For any new matters, we are able to still take the initial steps of serving eviction notices but with the advice that we shouldn’t start Court proceedings until the coronavirus lockdown has ended and the new Practice Direction has been removed. It is only a temporary measure and ought to be lifted later in the year.

The current stay under Practice Direction 51Z comes to an end on 25 June 2020, to coincide with the introduction of CPR 55.29. This new Rule will effect proceedings that have been stayed under the current Practice Direction, and those brought after 25 June 2020. Essentially, the ongoing proceedings and enforcement actions are further stayed, until 23 August 2020.
If you have any questions on the content of this article or for assistance with any commercial or corporate matters please contact a member of the Commercial Team on 01380 733300 or at commercial@wansbroughs.com.

Last updated 18/06/2020