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 Welcome’s 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 – Ensuring Peace of Mind During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an unprecedented rise in the demand for wills, as people look to get their affairs in order.  Owing to the social distancing rules, however, we have had to adopt more creative ways to help our clients complete wills – with meetings in supermarket carparks, where witnessing can take place through car windows, but allowing everyone involved to remain apart.

wills ilminster covid-19 coronavirus

For us at Broomhead & Saul, where we are proud of offering a personalised service, with face-to-face meetings, as opposed to things being done more remotely, we are as equally proud to have risen to the challenge of these new constraints.

Aside from the increase in demand – nationally this has been reported to be a 76% increase, against usual figures – it makes sense that many of those will of course be those who were yet to get around to making a will, but if you have one already, what’s the fuss and should you also being giving this some thought?

In simple terms, everyone needs a will; as without it you will be relying on the intestacy rules – rules which often lead to unexpected consequences.  Co-habiting with a partner and living together does not guarantee that the partner left behind will be able to remain in what was a joint home.  The myth that a co-habiting couple will each inherit from the other, because they are living together in a common law marriage is just that, a myth.  With a property passing to the next of kind – perhaps children from a former relationship – can leave a grieving partner without a home.

But back to that question about why you should even give this any thought, if you already have a will – if you have recently been married, or indeed have been married where you already had your will in place, will likely mean that you are in fact intestate – i.e. you no longer have a valid will in place, as marriage invalidates a previously-made will, except in the unlikely circumstances that you explicitly included the correct clause which anticipated your future marriage taking place.

Likewise, if you will was completed some time ago, assuming that it does remain valid, does it still reflect what you intend it to?

You can, technically, make an updated amendment to an existing will, via a codicil, but these days it is much safer to simply update your will with a new document covering everything you want it to say, so that there can be no ambiguity.  And that is the essential point; your will is your opportunity to set out what you want to happen when you are gone; for example, who might be guardians for your children, who might inherit and enjoy into the future your favourite items and how the value of your estate should be divided.

Reviewing your will now also presents an opportunity to consider digital assets – such as social media accounts; you can specify what you want to happen to these and importantly (something that is often overlooked) can consider how your family will know how to gain access to your accounts when you are gone.

Although we are not able to meet face-to-face in the usual way, we have been helping local individuals and families to complete their wills, with some novelty along the way!  So call us and speak with one of our private client team to discuss how you can ensure one of the biggest areas to ensure peace of mind, is settled, by speaking with one of our friendly private client team.

Broomhead & Saul Launches Property Possessions Claims Service

Somerset law firm Broomhead & Saul has today announced the launch of a new service for residential landlords across the region.

Given the economic climate, landlords are increasingly finding that tenants can fall behind with their rent; in some instances, this may only be temporary and an informal discussion will resolve matters; but in other cases or if issues persist, a landlord may decide to seek to take back their property via a possession order, through the courts.

Broomhead & Saul are now able to offer this service, covering advice and initial support through to securing an order for possession and dealing with enforcement, physically taking back the property, alongside the relevant agencies.

There may also be occasions where other issues have arisen, which are either a breach of the tenancy or which otherwise justifiably lead to the property owner wishing to regain what in some cases will be their former home, where partners have moved in together, for example.

Initial advice covers the options available and an idea of timescale from initial instructions to securing an order, to obtaining possession itself.

Do contact us to discuss your requirements, if you are facing difficulties with a tenant or are seeking advice related to investment properties and tenant issues.

Broomhead and Saul put scouts and marines through their paces

A TAUNTON scout group landed a windfall from Broomhead and Saul solicitors in Taunton this week. The solicitor’s firm sponsored the land rowing  event in which beavers, scouts and cubs decided to put their rowing skills to the test to help raise funds for The Royal Marine Charitable Trust and the Central Taunton Scout Group. The scout group organised this latest fund raising event on the 6th June in support of a team of Royal Marines who took part in The Non Tidal Thames 24 Challenge 2013 in May this year. The team of marines rowed the River Thames from Lechlade to Teddington, covering a distance of 125 miles, taking 24 hours, having to negotiate 42 locks and approximately 30,000 strokes.  Their aim was to raise a total of £30,000 and the Scout group wanted to help them fill their float.

TAUNTON SCOUTS GROUP AND MARINES

Broomhead & Saul Law Prize

The 2012 Broomhead & Saul Law Prize was awarded to Adam Mercer for his achievements at Richard Huish College.  Broomhead & Saul Partners Julia Clegg and Paul Brierley were delighted to present the award at the College’s annual Reunion and Prize Giving at Somerset County Cricket Ground on 16 April.  Adam is studying Law at Cardiff University and the award was collected on his behalf  by his mother, Mrs Mercer.  Congratulations to Adam and many thanks to the staff of Richard Huish College, in particular Jackie Lake, for their kind hospitality.

Broomhead and Saul Awarded Coveted Law Society Quality Conveyancing Accreditation!

 

Quality - Broomhead and Saul

Conveyancing Quality Scheme

 

“We are very proud to become one of the first firms in Somerset to become a firm recognised by the Law Society for the high quality of the service we provide and I am very prod of the property teams at the Taunton and Ilminster offices.”

The Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) will provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Achievement of membership establishes a level of credibility for member firms with stakeholders (regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers) based upon:

  • the integrity of the Senior Responsible Officer and other key conveyancing staff.
  • the firm’s adherence to good practice management standards.
  • adherence to prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures through the scheme protocol.

This scheme will create a trusted community which will deter fraud – year on year we will drive up standards.

To discuss any of your property needs or requirements, please do not hesitate to contact John or any one of the members of our experienced property team.