The government and the courts have simultaneously published more information on how evictions will work once the current moratorium or stay ends on Sunday.
This is all about prioritisation as the tsunami of old and more recent eviction proceedings descend on the courts.
Evictions that will be given priority include anti-social behaviour and extreme rent arrears of at least 12 months’ rent or nine months’ rent if it is more than 25% of a landlords’ total annual income from any source.
Other exceptions include squatters, domestic violence, fraud, deception, illegal sub-letting and abandonment of a property.
The update also reveals that landlords will have to make themselves available for telephone meetings with tenants and their representatives prior to court hearings to ‘prevent the determent of compromise’, and also warns that court capacity during Covid will be about 25% of previous capability.
Accelerated Possession Claims issued before 3 August 2020 will require a Reactivation Notice as with all other stayed claims, although court process changes due to Covid will render the ‘accelerated’ bit somewhat meaningless.
Except in accelerated possession claims, landlords will be given an initial ‘review date’ for new and stayed claims of 21 days but 14 days beforehand, they should provide paper evidence in written or electronic form and then, on the review date, be available for a telephone conference with the tenant or their adviser, after which the court will make a decision about whether to proceed to a hearing.
A new voluntary mediation pilot is to be conducted to facilitate a pre-hearing agreements between landlords and tenants, which will be provided by an independent provider but jointly funded by the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
Away from the courts, the government has published updated versions of the Reactivation Notices that it is asking landlords and tenants to complete and lodge with a court before old cases can be re-started, and which must be sent before 4pm on 24 January 2021 to be valid, the guidance says.
But lawyer Giles Peaker says this date is “not necessarily the case. Any possession claim with a hearing already listed requires a reactivation notice to be filed and served at least 42 days before the hearing, according to Practice Direction 55C 2.5.”
More clarification is expected in the coming days as the September 21 deadline looms, but is expected to include a Pre-Action Plan pack from the NRLA setting out the ‘nine gold rules’ plus four sets of new guidance from the MHCLG and more advice from HMCTS.