New Practice Direction 51Z to Stay Possession Proceedings

 

The Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor have signed Practice Direction 51Z (PD) following the Coronavirus Act 2020 emergency legislation regarding current possession proceedings. Samuel Okoronkwo Jr explains what this means for landlords and tenants in possession proceedings.

Practice Direction 51Z

On 27 March 2020, the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor signed Practice Direction 51Z (“PD 51Z”) which effectively “stays” or pauses possession claims for 90 days during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Paragraph 2 of PD 51Z states that the new provisions apply to all possession proceedings brought pursuant to Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”). So this is likely to include residential and commercial tenancies, as well as licenses and proceedings initiated by mortgagees.

If a landlord had served any sort of notice to quit to their tenant, for example a section 21 notice, before 27 March 2020, it appears that the rules pursuant to s.21(4D) of the Housing Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”) will still apply (to landlords and tenants in England only) preventing a landlord from starting a possession claim more than six months after a section 21 notice is served. In keeping with the Lord Chief Justice’s initial plea to continue with the administration of justice, it is likely that courts will continue to issue new proceedings. It is also likely that these proceedings will be immediately stayed. Potential claimants should also be wary of recent UK Government guidance on the issuing proceedings at this particularly delicate time.

Also, if a landlord had already obtained an order for possession, PD 51Z also pauses proceedings seeking to enforce such orders by warrant or writ of possession. That means, if landlords have instructed bailiffs to enforce such orders, they will not be able to carry out those instructions until at least 30 October 2020, the date on which paragraph 1 of PD 51Z states the new rules cease to have effect. Landlords should remember that they have up to 6 years from the date of the possession order to issue a warrant, and warrants must be executed within 1 year of their issue date, otherwise an application has to be made for the warrant to be renewed. Finally, paragraph 3 of PD 51Z states that the new rules implementing the stay on these proceedings does not apply to claims for injunctive relief. Therefore, it is likely that injunction applications, for example against squatters, will continue.

Ultimately the new rules are temporary but emergency measures to protect the more vulnerable in society in losing their homes, especially given the current UK Government Guidelines on social distancing and Working From Home. However, it remains to be seen whether the courts will extend these provisions if the pandemic worsens with its intention to facilitate the smooth administration of justice.

If you are a landlord or tenant and require advice from our barristers on how courts now stay possession claims for 90 days, please get in touch by consultation with a barrister; email us at clerks@mercantilebarristers.com; or telephone us on 0203 034 0077