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Covid 19 Update

January 2021

In pre-Covid times evicting a residential tenant was not straightforward. In the current pandemic it has become even more complex.

Possession proceedings were halted for a time last year which has meant that there is a large back log of cases in the courts. New arrangements have been introduced to assist courts on how to reopen and what cases shall be prioritised. These arrangements are temporary and non-statutory but if these procedures are not followed your claim may be delayed or adjourned. You should expect long delays if you wish to purse a possession claim through the courts.

Government guidance ‘ Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England and Wales ’ has been updated this month and is very comprehensive. If you made a claim for possession last year which was affected by the stay in proceedings the Government guidance has further information on this.

The Government are strongly encouraging parties to find alternative means of resolving disputes for example, agreeing a rent payment plan, or using a mediation service. Due to these unprecedented times, issuing proceedings to evict a tenant should be a last resort. The guidance links a ‘ Pre-Action Plan’ which sets out the ‘golden rules ’ for parties to engage with each other and try and reach an agreement before seeking repossession through the courts.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the tenant, you can still issue a claim for possession. Until the 30 July 2021 you must provide a statement setting out how the tenant has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and further information on the tenant’s financial position. If this is not provided the court may not progress your case.

If you have suffered financial difficulty because of the pandemic you can mark your case as ‘Covid-19’ which may assist the court in processing your claim.

For standard procedure possession claims the timeline in the court procedures also includes a short review appointment before the substantive hearing.

The guidance notes on proceedings using both the accelerated and standard procedure have been updated to reflect these new arrangements.

Landlords should also be aware that the Government is introducing a Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) in England and Wales on the 04 May 2021 whereby tenants, who have entered a scheme, cannot be contacted for a time to request payment of the debt. This will impact on landlords who wish to issue Section 8 notices for rent arrears. We will issue further information in due course. Government guidance (which can be found here ) was published late December last year.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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