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Social Housing Speed Read – HM Courts and Tribunals Service priority list

On 15 April 2020, HM Courts and Tribunals Service announced a list of priorities for the County Court during the current Covid-19 outbreak.

Many matters have been placed on hold whilst we navigate this difficult period but below are the housing-related issues that the courts will continue to consider.

Priority 1: work that must be done

  • Homeless Applications
  • Injunctions (and return dates for ex parte injunctions) – with a real time element, such as noise or interference with property
  • Anti-Social Behaviour/Harassment injunctions (not ancillary to possession)
  • Applications to stay enforcement of existing possession orders
  • Any applications in cases listed for trial in the next three months
  • Any applications where there is a substantial hearing listed in the next month
  • All Multi Track hearings where parties agree that it is urgent (subject to triage)
  • Appeals in all these cases

Priority 2: work that may be done

  • Applications for summary judgement for a specified sum
  • Applications to set aside judgement in default
  • Applications for security for costs
  • All small claim/fast track trials where parties agree it is urgent (subject to triage)
  • Preliminary assessment of costs
  • Appeals in all these cases

It is understood that all other proceedings, including possession, are on hold for the time being.

Despite the unavoidable reduction to their services, housing providers should note that the courts are continuing to address cases of anti-social behaviour by way of injunction in the interests of our communities. This is not without alteration to the usual processes, however, and housing providers should expect to encounter procedural change.

Changes include deviation from physical hearings for housing matters, with telephone hearings fast becoming the present norm. The courts are also accepting that defendants may be forced to stand unrepresented during such hearings due to the logistical difficulties in seeking legal assistance. Nevertheless, the courts endeavour to progress matters where possible.

It is uncertain, however, how alleged breaches of injunctions will be dealt with by the courts as the practicalities of bringing such proceedings appear somewhat difficult. The swearing of affidavits in committal proceedings, for example, has become problematic in light of the government’s social distancing guidelines. No express provisions are currently in place to address such difficulties with few applications appearing to have been made thus far.

As time passes and circumstances progress, the courts and the Social Housing Team at Ward Hadaway will continue to develop alternative ways of working to ensure that all housing needs are met where it is safe and practical to do so.

We will provide further updates as and when they become available.

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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