Residential Possession Claims – the Effects of the Coronavirus Act 2020 on a Landlord’s Claim to their Property

 

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) was introduced to enable public bodies to respond to the  Covid-19 pandemic.  As a result of the Act, temporary amendments were made to Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the procedure for bringing possession claims against residential tenants. Initially, all residential possession claims were stayed i.e. cannot proceed any further for a period of 90 days, from 27 March 2020, until 25 June 2020.  This stay was then extended until 23 August 2020 and then again until 20 September 2020.  This meant that any new claims brought (‘issued’) at court during this period were automatically stayed, as were any existing claims already in the system.

The most noticeable changes to the process were as follows:-

Claims brought before 3 August 2020

For all claims that were brought (‘issued’) on or before 3 August 2020, one of the parties must (a) serve a ‘reactivation notice’ confirming that they wish the case to either be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge and (b) set out what knowledge they have of the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendants (tenants).

New and stayed claims brought on or after 3 August 2020

For all claims brought on or after 3 August 2020, there is no requirement for an activation notice but at least 14 days prior to the hearing, the landlord must serve on the tenant a notice setting out what knowledge they have as to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependents.  For accelerated possession claims, this information must be served on the tenant with the claim form.

The purpose of these changes were to avoid anybody being evicted and losing their homes during the pandemic where the latter has had a detrimental effect to the financial circumstances of many people who may be struggling to pay rent and mortgage repayments.  The effect of these changes will mean a significant backlog within the court system and an additional 200 deputy district judges have been drafted in to assist with the many claims that will need to be processed now that the stay has been lifted.  It is hoped that court centres will be able to allocate the same number of courtrooms and days per week to possession proceedings as before March 2020.

Additional implications of the Act on Landlords – Notice of Possession

Prior to the Act, landlords were required to serve their tenants with at least two months’ written notice, in the ‘prescribed’ form, if they were seeking to claim a ‘no-fault’ eviction, pursuant to section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.  Whilst the Act did not prevent landlords from serving notices, it initially implemented changes requiring a landlord to provide three months’ notice to tenants.  From 29 August 2020, landlords will now be required to provide their tenants with six months’ notice terminating their residential tenancy agreement, before they can issue a claim. This temporary increase in notice period will be in place until at least 31 March 2021.

The guidance suggests that where tenants are having difficulties or are unable to pay their rent that landlords do not issue a notice seeking possession where their financial circumstances have been directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is, however, no requirement for landlords to stop charging rent during the pandemic as most tenants will be able to continue paying rent and will be contractually obliged to do so.  If, therefore, you are a landlord that has a tenant who is not paying rent yet is financially able to do so, you may want to consider serving notice for possession sooner rather than later.

If you are a landlord of property housing residential tenants and would like to discuss your options in relation to the above, please contact Lucy Milton-Downes on 01823 288121 or lucy.milton-downes@broomhead-saul.co.uk, as she would be happy to talk to you and is offering free-half hour no obligation telephone appointments.

Broomhead & Saul Welcomes Lucy Milton-Downes

Broomhead & Saul warmly welcomes Lucy Milton-Downes, who joins the firm as a partner.  Lucy heads the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution department.

Lucy brings to the practice over 14 years of experience in litigation covering a wide variety of highly technical litigation and dispute resolution work,   including:  personal injury claims, representing clients sectioned under the Mental Health Act, regulatory work for the Health & Safety Executive and prosecuting on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Lucy’s current practice areas include disputed wills, contested estates and trusts, property disputes, commercial and residential landlord & tenant disputes, possession claims, professional negligence, intellectual property disputes, insolvency and debt recovery.

Lucy is an associate member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists.  This is a forum for solicitors who specialise in disputed wills, probate and trusts to exchange experience and knowledge on this complex and growing area of law.

Lucy is extremely conscious of the cost involved in litigating a claim through the courts as well as the stress this can cause for her clients.  As a result, she is pragmatic and advises her clients on the risks versus the benefits of pursuing a claim through the courts and her strategy is to identify solutions that may benefit both sides, where this can avoid a lengthy and expensive court process.  It follows that she is a strong advocate of alternative dispute resolution.  She is a fully qualified mediator.

Lucy has a deserved reputation for being friendly and approachable as well as someone you can trust.  She puts her clients at ease and this enables her to establish quickly an excellent rapport with her clients.  She adopts a similar approach with her professional opponents whenever this is possible.  Her clients have often stated that ‘it is like talking to a friend’ when they meet with Lucy.  She has also had comments such as ‘you’re not like a real solicitor; I feel relaxed around you’.  She takes that as a compliment!

Lucy prides herself on her reputation for her ‘no-nonsense, down-to-earth’ approach.  She cuts through the stuffy legal jargon and pomposity that the legal profession is known for, as this risks prolonging disputes, incurring unnecessary costs and distress.  Lucy’s constant goal is to enable her clients to achieve timely and cost-effective solutions. Her ethos is to always have her clients’ best interests, both commercially and emotionally, at heart.

As a welcome offer, Lucy will provide the first hour of advice to clients with new disputed matters at a discounted rate of £125 plus VAT.  This offer will run until 31st October 2020.  Due to the pandemic, these consultations are by appointment only.

To find out more or make an appointment to discuss your needs further, please contact:

Lucy Milton-Downes;

lucy.milton-downes@broomhead-saul.co.uk

Taunton Office: 01823 288121

www.broomhead-saul.co.uk

 

Where there’s a will there’s a way

Broomhead & Saul was the first law firm in the country to appreciate the vital health and safety benefits of live-streaming video technology for its clients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

We also set a new legal precedent on 1 May this year when, acting in association with Solicitors Title LLP, we supervised the first remotely executed video will for a client who was self-isolating 150 miles away in Surrey, from our Taunton office.  This spared our client from any risk of being exposed to the coronavirus as well as allowing him to complete his will in the comfort and privacy of his home.

Dr Nicholas Bevan, senior associate solicitor, shared his ground breaking research with the government along with his proposals for an urgent intervention to encourage other lawyers to do the same.

Responding on the government’s behalf on 19 June this year, Lord Keen of Elie QC complimented our analysis, saying ‘It is an argument with force, set out in impressively comprehensive terms in Dr Bevan’s paper….I would like to thank him again for his detailed insights on the subject.’

On 25 July, the Government issued a press notice and guidance indicating that emergency legislation would be introduced in September.  The Government’s proposals are based on Dr Bevan’s research.

Writing in this week’s issue of the prestigious New Law Journal, in Where there’s a will there’s a way Dr Bevan shares the further clarification provided in Lord Keen QC’s most recent letter of 4 August on the Government’s proposed wills reform.  Unfortunately, according to research released today by Today’s Wills & Probate, most law firms feel unequal to the task of executing wills using video technology.

Broomhead & Saul, in partnership with Solicitors Title LLP, lead the will writing legal sector with this innovative nationwide private client service.  We welcome enquiries from members of the public up and down the country.  Our video witnessing will writing service has been devised to help anyone seeking to make a will in safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

For further details, please contact: Dr Nicholas Bevan on 01823 288121.

Broomhead & Saul Leads the Way

Broomhead & Saul and its affiliate Solicitors Title LLP have persuaded the Justice Secretary to take decisive action to help self-isolating testators make their wills in safety.

When it became clear that the multiparty discussions with the Ministry of Justice had stalled,  Dr Bevan, who is based at Broomhead & Saul’s Taunton office, submitted a detailed paper, Why Video Witnessing Is Valid, in which he argued the case for validating the use of live streaming video technology to witness will makers signing their wills remotely. Hitherto, the entire legal profession was united in believing that a physical presence was an essential requirement. The Government’s official guidance adopts the ‘line of sight’ principle advocated in Dr Bevan paper. Legislation permitting the video witnessing of wills is expected to be introduced in September and given retrospective effect to 31 January this year. This represents the single most radical change to will writing services since 1677.