(Update 27 March. For the details of the stay, see here on the new Practice Direction 51Z )
Well now, this is big (and also finally, it would seem, some clarity). According to this MHCLG press release from this evening:
From tomorrow (27 March 2020) following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellors (sic) agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales
So, the judiciary has suspended all current possession proceedings for 90 days. We really need to know the detail of this – for example, are all current warrants and High Court writs of possession suspended? But this is big. It goes well beyond the Govt’s limited extension of the required notice period for some types of tenancy.
This will apparently include:
- Mortgage possession claims against homeowners
- All tenancies, including contractual tenancies, and ‘non-secure’ council tenancies of temporary accommodation
- Licences that are not excluded from the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 – this includes property guardians, those in s.193 HA 1996 temporary accommodation under a licence, and some employment related accommodation.
What this doesn’t do.
Let us be clear, this is effectively an administrative decision by the senior judiciary. It is just a suspension, for a period of time. Everything will restart, in the same position (and possibly a worse position) as soon as the suspension is lifted,
It does not cover those whose occupation is excluded from statutory protection or the Protection from Eviction Act. So, for example, lodgers, homeless applicants housed under licence under s.188 Housing Act 1996, and some people where accommodation is part of their employment.
But (needing detail aside, and this is an MHCLG press release, not from the Master of the Rolls, after all), this sounds like the immediate relief and temporary protection that was so badly needed, and which the Govt had not delivered, despite ‘misleading statements’ to the contrary.
The huge issue, of coronavirus-caused rent arrears, remains to resolved. Unless that is somehow dealt with, there will be a flood of evictions awaiting the lifting of suspensions. Landlords – quite rightly – get a 3 month (and maybe more) mortgage suspension, and can’t then face possession or receivers from the lender at the end of that three months if they don’t pay up immediately. Why is there no equivalent provision on coronavirus-related rent arrears?