The stay on possession claims imposed by CPR 55.29 was due to end on Sunday 23 August. In an extraordinary, after the last minute, step, on 20 August 2020 the Lord Chancellor directed the Master of the Rolls and the Civil Procedure Rules Committee to amend the Rules to extend the stay for 4 weeks, to 20 September 2020. This was done today 21 August.
A letter by the Master of the Rolls sets this out.
It is indeed of an ‘extremely unusual nature and timing’. I rather suspect that might result in a challenge. We shall see.
It has to be hoped – fervently hoped – that this four week extension is to buy time for there to be a proper, long term solution to the issues presented by the end of the stay on possession claims. Parliament returns on 1 September and any serious address to the issues would require some form of legislation.
A four week blanket extension of the stay on all possession claims (save against trespassers) is in itself, virtually pointless, unless that time is used for something.
The text of the CPR 55.29 amendments is awaited. And this presumably leaves Practice Direction 55C orphaned, unless also amended.
In the meantime, the Guardian reported
One source said civil servants and ministers have been considering whether protections could remain in place for people who can show they have fallen behind on their rent because of coronavirus.
Well, yes, there was draft legislation to do that put forward by Labour back in May. Back when parliament was sitting and something could have been done about the 23 August position. Four months later, we have this later than late panic driven extension of the stay…
Update: The Govt has now also announced:
The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.
The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.
When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
Now I have a lot of questions – starting with what happens to the three month notices that have been served between March and whenever this extension to 6 months takes place? If they remain valid, will there be a flood of notices served now? If not, how can you retrospectively change notice period?
Also, will they remember to extend the ‘use it or lose it’ period for section 21 notices – currently 6 months from date of service.
But above all, this looks like a wasted opportunity to actually do something about the position of many coronavirus-affected renters, other than to push the problem a little further down the line.
Update – amended CPR 55.29 test here – straight date swap.
Update 27/08/20 – Practice Direction 55C has been quietly amended to take effect from 20 September 2020, the end of the extended stay. However the internal dates (claims before or after 3 August 2020) remain the same.