From housing barrister and Deputy District Judge Robert Brown of Selborne Chambers in London
Last week, Tessa and I carried out our second webinar on dealing with lettings during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, and the effect on court proceedings.
One of the things that we discussed was the Civil Procedure Rules Practice Direction 51Z, which stays possession proceedings for a period of 90 days from 27 March. The Master of the Rolls has now amended the Practice Direction. The updated version can be found here. The Practice Direction has changed in four key respects.
The first change
First, the stay no longer applies to some claims against trespassers (those claims to which CPR 55.6 applies).
The second change
Secondly, the stay no longer applies to claims for interim possession orders brought under Section III of CPR 55. These claims have to be made within 28 days of the date on which the claimant first knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the defendant was in occupation. Anyone who had been holding off on issuing a claim because of the stay as it was originally introduced may need to act very fast.
Those two changes still leave out some potential trespass cases, for which the only civil route available at the current time would appear to be an injunction.
The third change
Thirdly, it is possible to make an application for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties. According to the Justice website: “This will facilitate the proper administration of justice, as such agreed orders can be considered on the papers they will not involve party attendance at court. Moreover, they will enable possession proceedings to resume effectively once the 90-day stay has otherwise expired.”
The fourth change
Finally, the amended Practice Direction contains welcome confirmation that claims that will be subject to the stay can still be issued during this time. This means that where the “lifespan” of a notice is going to run out during the stay period, a claim can still be issued before the notice becomes invalid.
Nothing further will then happen until the stay ends (unless any case management directions are agreed), but at least the claim will have been issued in time.