The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is consulting on the enforcement of possession orders and the consistency and alignment of procedures carried out in the county court and high court. A consultation questionnaire for landlords’ views is accessible below.
What are the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)?
These are the rules of civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in civil cases in England and Wales. They apply to all cases commenced after 26 April 1999, and largely replace the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules.
The CPR were designed to improve access to justice by making legal proceedings cheaper, quicker, and easier to understand for non-lawyers. As a consequence of this, many archaic legal terms are replaced with “plain English” equivalents, such as “claimant” for “plaintiff” and “witness summons” for “subpoena”.
For anyone contemplating legal action, professional or layman, these are a handy set of rules and guidance which if studied conscientiously will considerably increase the chances of success of the action. For possession claims, by far the most common reason why landlords contemplate action, see Part 55 of the CPRs.
An issue with the Civil Procedure Rules, which are judged to be unsatisfactory, is that of the enforcement of possession orders, says the committee. The problem is that there currently exist two “differing, and anomalous, systems” in the High Court and in the County Court, the committee thinks.
“In the County Court, there is a system of administrative action and court-appointed bailiffs, involving substantial delays (to the detriment of property owners) albeit with limited costs, and a non-statutory informal procedure for occupiers to be given advance notice of evictions.
“In the High Court, there is a system of judicial involvement and external High Court Enforcement Officers, with less delay, but more cost, and a more limited provision for occupiers to be given advance notice of proceedings.
“The differences between the two systems and the weaknesses of each, particularly in terms of delay, cost and limited notice to those being evicted (and who may have rights to apply to the court), have been noted in a number of both historic and more recent judicial decisions and in recent reports, including The Final Report of The (Briggs) Civil Courts Structure Review which recommended that there should be at least harmonisation of the operation processes of the enforcing agents.”
Finally, this statement should be of interest to landlords:
“The CPRC recognises that there is a balance to be struck; for example, on the one hand there may be a landlord who is owed several month’s unpaid rent and who may also be in debt as a result of the rent arrears, and on the other hand tenants or other occupiers who ought to know if and when they are to be evicted to enable them to make other provision or make their own representations to the court. All parties should be treated fairly and with respect. Although this issue arises mainly in the residential context, it extends also to commercial premises but where different considerations may be thought to arise.”
Landlords should take the opportunity to give their views to the consultation committee by completing the consultation questionnaire here