Possession Proceedings: a change in process
29th November, 2021
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) Practice Direction 55C was introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily modifying the possession process set out in Part 55 for an interim period.
The impact of the Covid pandemic raised questions as to the approach to be taken by courts to the possession process.
Part 55 CPR was altered on 17 September 2020 by the “Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings in England and Wales” by Sir Terence Etherton. This guidance meant that for any stayed or new claims brought on or after 3 August 2020 the courts would list the matter for a review hearing where the District Judge would conduct a review before listing the matter for a substantive possession hearing. These arrangements were in place until 30 November 2021.
Interim arrangements post 1 November 2021
In a statement dated 3 November 2021, the Master of the Rolls (Sir Geoffrey Vos) confirmed that the ‘Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings in England and Wales’ (Overall Arrangements) came to an end on 1 November 2021.
From 1 November 2021 possession proceeding are to be governed solely by the CPR and its Practice Directions and any relevant listing policies are to be determined by Designated Civil Judges in the light of local conditions.
Post 1 December 2021
The ‘interim period’ comes to an end on 30 November 2021. Therefore, from 1 December 2021 the courts will be required to list a claim for a substantive possession hearing to take place within 8 weeks of the claim being issued.
Claimants will find that there is a transitionary period over the coming few weeks for cases which have already been scheduled for a review hearing but for new claims issued it is expected that the majority will proceed straight to a substantive hearing.
Ongoing Covid requirements until 30 June 2022
There will be an extension of the requirements in paragraphs CPR 6.1 and 6.2 PD 55C until 30 June 2022.
Those requirements mean that the Claimant must serve on the Defendant, not less than 14 days prior to a possession hearing, a notice regarding the knowledge the Claimant has as to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic upon the Defendant and their dependants. The Claimant must bring two copies of the notice to the hearing.
The way forward
The above changes mark a positive move towards post-Covid recovery. Claimants should see their claims reaching a hearing sooner following the issue of proceedings. That said, there may be some inconsistency as to how courts deal with the changes and how much discretion judges will exercise in light of their local conditions.
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Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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