Legislation has been laid before Parliament setting out arrangements for managing the resumption of possession proceedings next month.
The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 amend Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules and are intended to ensure that the civil justice system is “accessible, fair and efficient”.
The original stay imposed by Practice Direction 51Z would have expired on 25 June but was extended by two months.
The explanatory memorandum to the new Rules says work on considering what arrangements and procedures were required, and how best to manage possession cases after the lifting of the stay on possession proceedings on 23 August 2020, had been undertaken, in particular by an emergency working group since 1 June.
The group is led by senior judiciary and includes representatives of government departments and agencies, legal representatives and members from the advice sector.
The arrangements to be put in place will be temporary until 28 March 2021, with a facility to review in the meantime. They include:
- a requirement for a claimant to inform the court who wishes to resume stayed proceedings to inform the court and defendant in writing of this after the expiry of the stay in a “reactivation notice”;
- requiring the claimant to provide (in the particulars of claim reactivation notice or for the hearing as appropriate) any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances to include information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and his/her dependants, which will enable the court to have regard to vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”;
- to allow the court to fix a date either on or after issue (so that hearings may be appropriately spread out and avoiding “bunching”).
- to suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing which usually would be not more than eight weeks, again to spread out hearings appropriately in particular having regard to court capacity;
- to require a claimant so far as practicable to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing.
The new Rules, which apply to England and Wales, insert into Part 55 of the CPR a new rule which provides for a new, temporary Practice Direction 55C.
“PD55C (which is available on the Ministry of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil ) in turn provides for the temporary arrangements to support the administration of justice and to promote best practice and consistency in and related to possession proceedings in the continuing context of the pandemic and the economic situation,” the memorandum states.