There is uncertainty for everyone in these difficult times but one of the biggest worries for private tenants is the issue of their homes, and for landlords is the issue of having to pay a mortgage when there may not be any rent coming in. This series of briefing notes, written by Rebecca Keeves, addresses the temporary measures that have been put in place by the Government during this unprecedented time and the consequences for both landlords and tenants.

What’s Changed?

The original Practice Direction 51Z stated at paragraph 2:

All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession by a warrant or writ of possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from the date this Direction comes into force.

As is clear from the wording, this Practice Direction caused a halt to all Part 55 claims. The purpose was clearly to protect tenants who may struggle to pay their rent during this period and prevent them being evicted; however, it created an unfair disadvantage to landlords who may need to evict tenants for other reasons and landowners who are faced with trespassers.

The Practice Direction has now been updated to include paragraph 2A which reads as follows:

Paragraph 2 does not apply to—

(a) a claim against trespassers to which rule 55.6 applies;

(b) an application for an interim possession order under Section III of Part 55, including the making of such an order, the hearing required by rule 55.25(4), and any application made under rule 55.28(1); or

(c) an application for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties.

Landowners are therefore now able to continue with evictions in the following situations:

  • Where the land is occupied by trespassers;
  • When an interim possession order is sought pursuant to CPR 55.20 onwards. This being when the Claimant has an immediate right to possession, such right has existed throughout the period of occupation by the proposed Defendant, and the claim has been made within 28 days of the date on which the Claimant first knew or ought reasonably have known about the occupation;
  • Applications to set aside an interim possession order; or
  • Case management where it is by agreement.

In my opinion, these amendments do not go far enough. It is quite right that tenants are protected during this period from the consequences of the pandemic, but further amendments are required: of particular note, there has been no change in respect of Grounds 14, 14ZA or 14A. Under normal circumstances the notice would need to be served and possession could be sought immediately (section 8(4) pre-amendment) but under the coronavirus rules a notice must still give 3 months’ notice to the tenant and possession proceedings remain subject to paragraph 2 of the Practice Direction.

It is also worth noting paragraph 3 of the Practice Direction:

For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay in paragraph 2, and the fact that a claim to which paragraph 2 applies will be stayed does not preclude the issue of such a claim.” It has also confirmed my presumptions in my previous articles that the Practice Direction does not prevent claims being issued and landlords are still entitled to do so.