Practice Direction 55C has the effect of temporarily modifying Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules during an interim period, between 20 September 2020 and 30 November 2021.
The minutes of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee meeting of 8 October 2021 confirm that prior to the end of November 2021, an emergency, out-of-cycle Update to the Practice Directions shall be deployed, the effect of which will be to extend the requirements in paragraphs 6.1 and 6.2 of PD 55C until 30 June 2022.
Those requirements are for the Claimant to serve on the Defendant (14 days before a possession hearing), and bring to the hearing, 2 copies of a notice regarding what knowledge the Claimant has as to the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants. For any accelerated s21 Housing Act 1988 possession claims, the obligation is to file this notice with the Claim Form.
Since the interim period itself ends on 30 November 2021, from 1 December 2021 onwards, Courts will be obliged to list a claim for a hearing to take place within 8 weeks of the claim being issued – CPR r.55.5(3)(b).
On 3 November 2021, the Master of the Rolls announced that the ‘Overall Arrangements for Possession Proceedings for England and Wales’ came to an end on 1 November 2021. That document contained the model of Review Dates and Substantive Hearings as the template for the resumption of possession claims following the near-blanket stay imposed by PD 51Z and CPR r.55.29 from 27 March 2020 to 20 September 2020.
The position now is that Courts are no longer expected to adhere to the model of Review Dates preceding Substantive Hearings. Instead, each area’s Designated Civil Judge has the freedom to determine their region’s listing practice for possession claims. Since the ‘standard period’ requirement of no more than 8 weeks in r.55.5(3)(b) shall return on 1 December 2021, it is expected that most Courts will no longer attempt to list a claim for a Review Date prior to a Substantive Hearing.
There is expected to be a ‘run-off’ period over the next few weeks for cases which the Courts have already scheduled to be reviewed. For newer claims that have been issued since 1 November 2021, it is expected that the vast majority of these shall proceed straight to a Substantive Hearing. From 1 December onwards, the hearing should be scheduled for no later than 8 weeks after the issue of the claim.
Claimants should therefore see their claims reaching a hearing sooner after they have been issued, compared with the timescales experienced over the last 14 months. There will be increasingly fewer – and eventually, no – claims which have a Review Date interposed before they are scheduled for a hearing.