30th March 2020
On 27 March 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued Civil Procedure Practice Direction 51Z which suspended all housing possession actions with immediate effect for an initial period of 90 days. This period can be extended where necessary.
The actions suspended include all claims where a court order is necessary for mortgage possession against homeowners and for all tenancies, including contractual tenancies, and ‘non-secure’ council tenancies of temporary accommodation. It does not cover those whose occupation is excluded from statutory protection or the Protection from Eviction Act. So, for example, lodgers, homeless applicants housed under licence under s.188 Housing Act 1996, and some people where accommodation is part of their employment.
According to MHCLG, ‘this measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales’
The Practice Direction applies to all new cases and also those currently in the system. It also includes any enforcement action resulting from a possession order, meaning that all bailiff activity is included and is suspended as of 27 March 2020.
In introducing the measures, the Government stated that ‘tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme’.
The Practice Directive comes hot on the heels of the Coronavirus Act which made it onto the statute books on March 26, 2020. The Act extends the notice periods required to terminate a tenancy under Sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Landlords are now required to provide three months’ notice before possession proceedings can be commenced under any of the grounds of S8 or S21. These changes start with immediate effect and are currently scheduled to remain in place under 30 September 2020, however that date may be extended under the Act. The Act has been the subject of criticism for not going far enough to protect renters and home owners during the period of the Coronavirus outbreak
For further information on how we are managing our service delivery during the coronavirus outbreak, please see our update in COVID-19.