Residential possession claims: no real update for residential landlords
The Coronavirus Act 2020 and introduction of a new practice direction in the court has had the effect of (i) increasing the notice period under s21 and s8 possession claims to three months (see Schedule 29 of Coronavirus Act 2020); and (ii) staying all possession claims (see paragraph 2 of CPR PD 51Z).
In practice, this means that many residential landlords find themselves unable to lawfully evict tenants for a three month period even in circumstances where there have been serious breaches of the tenancy agreement that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic or in circumstances where the landlord himself needs to move back into the property.
The “stay” (which essentially means a pause in the proceedings) will initially last for three months from the date that PD 51Z came into force, which means that it is due to end on 25th June 2020. This period could be extended further.
In a recent case heard by the Court of Appeal (Arkin v Marshall  EWCA Civ 620)*, the court confirmed that the blanket stay on possession claims is lawful. The court further confirmed that whilst the Court has discretion to lift the stay in exceptional cases, this would only be exercised in extremely exceptional cases. In fact, the court could not think of an example where discretion would be exercised in this way.
The Government has so far been silent on the issue of whether or not this stay will be extended for a further period. In the meantime, many residential landlords are struggling financially or facing significant uncertainty as they await a further update. It is envisaged that the courts will be burdened by a considerable backlog as and when the stay is lifted, and it could be many months before landlords are able to regain possession.
If you’d like any further information or help with any issues you are facing, please get in touch with Holly Baker or call 01582 514000