The news that many landlords had been worried about has been confirmed. The eviction moratorium that we originally blogged about in March (https://painsmith.co.uk/eviction-moratorium/ ) has been extended.
Practice Direction 51Z which sets out the extent of the effects of coronavirus on possession claims originally imposed a stay of 3 months to all new and existing possession claims. This was due to finish towards the end of June which no doubt had many landlords readying themselves to begin/continue with possession proceedings as soon as possible after this date. Unfortunately those plans may need to be re-assessed as PD 51Z has been amended to extend the stay for a further 8 weeks until 23 August 2020 at the earliest.
The extended stay and likely chaos afterwards, has meant that a working group has been put together by the Master of the Rolls to make sure that the restarting of possession claims is implemented as efficiently as possible following the stay. Hopefully this will make the transition work but Landlords looking for possession of their property, regardless of the reason and even if any rent arrears were not caused by the pandemic, need to be preparing for extremely lengthy proceedings due the inevitable influx of cases made at the same time.
With the current extension in mind, it is worth Landlords considering the validity of any section 21 notices that they have already served. Many landlords may have been waiting until the end of the moratorium before issuing proceedings on the basis of an expired section 21 notice, for good reason. However, as we discussed in a previous blog (https://painsmith.co.uk/another-coronavirus-update/ ) the notices have a 6 month shelf life before action (issuing court proceedings) is required otherwise, landlords lose the ability to rely on them in court. Whilst any new claims will likely not be processed before the end of the stay, any landlords with section 21 notices coming up to end of the 6 month shelf life, that they know they will need to rely on, may want to issue possession proceedings now to protect the validity of notice served. As advised in the aforementioned ‘Another Coronavirus Update’ blog, this should only be last resort and where absolutely necessary though.
We will update everyone on the blog as and when we know any more.