Three judges dismiss attempt to restart repossessions within the court system which, via several technical points, had argued that the ban was illegal on procedural grounds.

A judgement from the Court of Appeal today has dismissed a challenge to the government’s ‘evictions ban’ in the courts, confirming that the measure is lawful.

Many landlords trapped by the estimated 20,000 repossession cases stuck in the courts since the suspension of repossession cases in the courts were pinning their hopes on the Court of Appeal case going in their favour.

But the three judges involved have handed down a judgement on Arkin vs Marshall which tackled the government’s Practice Direction 51Z, which officially suspended possession cases within the courts system.

This was one of the government’s two central mechanisms to introduce an ‘evictions ban’. It will last at least until late June, and possibly beyond to October if required.

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“The outcome is that PD51Z is lawful, applies through possession proceedings and in all but the most exception cases – the court found it hard to envisage examples – should not be lifted,” says Julie Ford of Hemel Hempstead Property Network.

“The was an interesting challenge of the practice directive and had the outcome been different, this could been an immediate game changer for pending possession cases.

“I believe the court of appeal has made the right decision in this case.”

Technical points

The judges were asked to look at several technical and procedural points including whether judges can interfere in suspensions or ‘stays’ of Practice Directions such as PD51Z, but this was kicked into the long grass as a Judicial Review on this point must now follow.

“Although not favourable to those needing possession of their property back before the end of the current suspension of possession claims I feel this judgement is very sensible and provides some certainty on the current position,” says Tim Frome, Legal Director of Landlord Action.

“The Civil Courts are not the right place to deal with a challenge to a government acting ultra vires or ‘outside of their authority’.

“This needs to be done by Judicial Review. The change to the practice direction, allowing agreed case management directions, dealt with one of the main issues in the case being heard.

“I also agree with the final point in the judgement. Judges do always having case management powers, however in the current public health circumstance there would need to be the most exceptional circumstances for a judge to agree to lift the stay so, in short, parties should not bother trying.

“It will be very interesting to see whether the government decides to extend the current three month stay which is due to end around 25th June. We have estimated that there are over 20,000 cases currently waiting in the county courts and more are being issued every day.

“Any further stay will put huge pressure on the system in the future.”

Read the full judgement.


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