New Practice Direction 55C for Possession Claims

From 23 August 2020, a new, temporary Practice Direction 55C (‘PD 55C’) shall come into force, pursuant to the 123rd Practice Direction Update to the CPR, and the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020. This sets out the procedure to be taken in relation to possession actions which have been stayed as a result of CPR PD 51Z and CPR 55.29.

PD 55C has effect until 28 March 2021 (the ‘interim period’ being between 23 August 2020 and 28 March 2021).

Stayed claims are those claims brought on or before 22 August 2020. These sub-divide into stayed claims brought on or before 3 August 2020 and those brought between 3 August 2020 and 22 August 2020, inclusive. For the earlier subset of stayed claims brought before or on 3 August 2020, a reactivation notice is required to be filed and served, in order for the stayed claim to be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge under CPR 55.15.

The reactivation notice must confirm that the party filing/serving it wishes the case to be listed/relisted/heard/referred and (except for proceedings relating to an appeal) must set out what knowledge that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants.

A reactivation notice is not required for a stayed claim brought on or after 3 August 2020, or in which a final possession order has already been made – PD 55C paragraph 2.2(a) and (b), respectively.

For claims based on arrears of rent, the Claimant must provide alongside the reactivation notice an updated rent account for the previous two years – PD 55C paragraph 2.4.

Claims for which a reactivation notice is required, but in which no such notice is filed and served by 4.00pm on 29 January 2021 will be susceptible to an automatic stay – PD 55C paragraph 2.6. This stay is not a sanction for breach, and an application to lift it is not an application for relief from sanctions – PD 55C paragraph 2.7.

CPR 55.5(3)(b) – the standard period for the hearing date to be within 8 weeks of the issue of the claim form – does not apply during the interim period. This means the court may list the hearing date beyond 8 weeks after the issue of the claim.

There must be a minimum of 21 days’ notice to the parties of any listed/relisted hearing following the filing/service of a reactivation notice – PD 55C paragraph 3.1.

New claims, defined as those brought after 22 August 2020, and stayed claims which were brought on or after 3 August 2020, are subject to the requirements in paragraphs 6.1 and 6.2 of PD 55C. 2 copies of relevant notices must be brought to the hearing by the Claimant:

  • For those claims to which the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords applies, a notice confirming that the Claimant has complied with that Protocol, and how
  • For all claims, a notice setting out what knowledge the Claimant has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants. This notice must be served on the Defendant at least 14 days prior to the hearing.
  • For all accelerated possession claims of property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy brought on or after 3 August 2020, the Claimant must file this Coronavirus-related notice, along with the Claim Form, for service – PD 55C paragraph 6.2

The new Practice Direction does not alter the existing requirement from PD 55A paragraph 5.5, to bring to the hearing two completed copies of the N123 to all claims to which the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims based on Mortgage or Home Purchase Plan Arrears in Respect of Residential Property applies; this requirement remains intact.

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