I have trespassers occupying my land. Can I evict them?
On 18 April 2020, it was announced that an exception to the current stay in possession proceedings and ban on all evictions has been made to allow possession orders to be made against trespassers.
This means land owners can take action to remove unauthorised persons occupying their land. Trespassers include: squatters; travellers; failed successors of secure tenancies; and licensees whose licences have been terminated.
Further, the automatic stay to possession proceedings currently imposed no longer applies to applications for interim possession orders meaning any persons found to be “squatting” on land without permission may again be subject to an order requiring them to leave your premises within 24 hours of service of that order.
The Cabinet Office has published a helpful Procurement Policy Note (“PPN”) on relief available to suppliers due to Covid-19 (available here). This can include making advance payments to suppliers, if necessary. The PPN sets out actions that public sector bodies should take (until at least 30 June 2020) to ensure continuity of service and to ensure that its suppliers can resume normal contract activity once able to.
The actions public sector bodies should be taking include:
- Informing its suppliers (that they believe are at risk) that they will continue to be paid as normal until the end of June 2020 (even if service delivery is currently interrupted). Risk might include supply chains collapsing and/or significant financial implications for a supplier
- If a contract involves a payment by results mechanism, basing payments on previous months (e.g. the average monthly payment over the previous 3 months), and
- Ensuring that invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately to maintain cash flow in the supply chain and help to protect jobs.
If you are a supplier to a public sector body, you must act transparently and on an open-book basis, making cost data available to your public sector clients. You must also continue to pay your employees and subcontractors / suppliers. Suppliers to the public sector must not expect to make profits on any undelivered elements of a contract. The PPN makes clear that, should suppliers be found to be taking undue advantage, or failing to act transparently, a public sector body can take action to recover payments made to that supplier.
The PPN requires public sector bodies to urgently review their contract portfolios and take steps to support suppliers who they believe are “at risk”. However, no definition of “at risk” is given in the document. We would suggest that if you are a supplier and you have yet to hear from a public sector client, you should seek to get in touch with them as soon as possible, particularly if you have concerns about your supply chain, staff retention and/or are experiencing financial difficulties currently. Given the requirement for transparency, you may be required to provide evidence, so it may be helpful to have any relevant documentation ready to send, if necessary, as this may help ensure a decision is made by the public sector client more promptly, particularly as the public sector body may have a number of contracts to consider.
If a contract contains a force majeure clause this may become operative due to the coronavirus pandemic and related emergency legislation. Such clauses exist to ensure that if some unforeseen event prevents a party from being able to perform their obligations under a contract, either on time or at all, they will be excused from their obligations and not be held liable for non-performance.
The clause must actually be written into the contract to have effect – a force majeure clause cannot be implied into a contract. Whether it can be relied on by a party will depend on the wording of the clause itself as it may only be applicable in certain limited circumstances.
You should seek legal advice at an early stage if you think that force majeure is relevant, because a number of potentially complex issues must be addressed, many of which will turn upon the exact wording of the force majeure clause in the contract in question:
- Has a force majeure event actually arisen?
- What notification process do you have to follow to rely on the provision?
- What mitigation steps do you have to take?
- What is the effect of the force majeure event – is the contract suspended, or can it be terminated (which might not be what you want)?
The guidance from the Government concerning private sector organisations is very different from the guidance for public sector and organisations that receive public funding. The guidance states:
“The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to Covid-19 are not expected to furlough staff.”
This guidance isn’t particularly clear but it appears that there is a recognition that there are different types of organisations which could be caught by this:
- Organisations who will be required to provide frontline services during the Covid-19 response. It is interpreted that NHS organisations such as NHS Trusts will fall firmly into this category. Employees of such organisations are expected not to be furloughed and to continue to work and be paid their normal salary in the usual way.
- Organisations who receive public funding to provide services to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. These organisations are not expected to furlough their staff. The type of organisation that would fit into this category are those that have been commissioned to developing breathing apparatus or testing kits to meet the needs of the healthcare sector during the peak of the pandemic.
- Organisations who receive public funds for staff costs to operate services. Employers are expected to continue to pay staff if the money to pay them is publicly funded. It is strongly inferred that this is irrespective of whether such staff have any work to perform. The type of organisation that is likely to fall into this category are GP practices, charities and private sector companies that have won contracts with the public sector.
Partner at Ward Hadaway Adrian Ballam catches up with corporate finance expert and CBILS specialist Chris Silverwood (CorpFin and cashflow.co.uk) a month after their initial conversation to talk about what the last couple of months have taught us about access to finance.
Sections of the video and their timings are as follows:
(01.06) – example of continuing appetite for certain businesses (e.g. tech sector)
(02.06) – conflict between incumbent bank and different CBILS lenders, plus brief discussion of CBILS II
(05.36) – bounce back loans have been a distraction
(06.27) – muted impact of fintech CBILS lenders
(07.52) – discussion about invoice discounting
(11.59) – looming insolvency environment
(12:52) – emerging themes
A claim for indirect discrimination is the most likely risk here. The first point to make is that the decision to review duties is being made based on the growing amount of medical evidence that the BAME community is being disproportionately adversely affected by the COVID 19 pandemic compared to other ethnic groups. The key is to ensure that blanket policy decisions are not taken, nor should assumptions be made about the risk to each individual concerned. Decisions should only be made on an individual basis with an open dialogue with the individual concerned. You as their employer, need to ensure that the individual feels listened to and heard; that this is not just a tick box exercise.
Consider having a working group which has an overview of the policy decisions being made. That working group should contain representatives from across the staff groups including staff side, but importantly, representatives from different ethnic backgrounds to ensure the important voices are heard. Accountability should be built into that group. This group should also be a safe environment for staff to raise concerns about their health and safety and safe systems at work.