Friday, 27 March 2020

COVID-19: REPOSSESSIONS HALTED II: PRACTICE DIRECTION

Here's chapter and verse - the authority for the halting of proceedings for possession of tenanted and mortgaged properties and evictions in the form of a practice direction made under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.

PRACTICE DIRECTION 51Z – STAY OF POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS - CORONAVIRUS This Practice Direction supplements Part 51

1. This practice direction is made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”). It is intended to assess modifications to the rules and Practice Directions that may be necessary during the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to ensure that the administration of justice, including the enforcement of orders, is carried out so as not to endanger public health. As such it makes provision to stay proceedings for, and to enforce, possession. It ceases to have effect on 30 October 2020.
2. All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession by a warrant or writ of possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from the date this Direction comes into force.
3. For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay in paragraph 2.

COVID-19: Emergency Priority Courts For Face To Face Hearings Introduced: 27 March 2020

COVID-19: REPOSSESSIONS HALTED

For the latest legal developments, see this digestible summary which has just been published by the Government https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak?utm_medium=email&utm_source=

Pending possession action is halted. Any landlord now wishing to give notice to a tenant to leave will be required to give at least three months' notice (instead of 28 days, 14 days or two months, depending on the type of tenancy, as before).  New forms of notice are likely to be prescribed shortly.  

But - and it's a big but - rent will still be payable. If two months' plus rent arrears accumulate then (subject to any future legislation) a large number of tenants will be at risk in due course - once the freeze on possession proceedings thaws out - of being subject to a mandatory order for possession. So try and keep those arrears down to less than two months.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

COVID-19: New Civil Practice Direction For Remote Hearings: England & Wales

Here is the practice direction under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 made on 24 March 2020 and covering video and audio civil court hearings during the pandemic.

116th UPDATE – PRACTICE DIRECTION AMENDMENTS The new Practice Direction 51Y supplementing the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 is made by the Master of the Rolls under the powers delegated to him by the Lord Chief Justice under Schedule 2, Part 1, paragraph 2(2) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and is approved by the Lord Chancellor. The new Practice Direction comes into force on the day after the day on which it is approved. The Right Honourable Sir Terence Etherton Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice The Right Honourable Robert Buckland QC MP Lord Chancellor Date: 24th March 2020 

PRACTICE DIRECTION 51Y – VIDEO OR AUDIO HEARINGS DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC 1) After Practice Direction 51X insert Practice Direction 51Y as set out in the Schedule to this Update. 

SCHEDULE PRACTICE DIRECTION 51Y – VIDEO OR AUDIO HEARINGS DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC 
This Practice Direction supplements Part 51 1. This practice direction, made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”), makes provision in relation to audio or video hearings. It ceases to have effect on the date on which the Coronavirus Act 2020 ceases to have effect in accordance with section 75 of that Act. 2. During the period in which this Direction is in force, where the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted wholly as video or audio proceedings and it is not practicable for the hearing to be broadcast in a court building, the court may direct that the hearing must take place in private where it is necessary to do so to secure the proper administration of justice. 3. Where a media representative is able to access proceedings remotely while they are taking place, they will be public proceedings. In such circumstances it will not be necessary to make an order under paragraph 2 and such an order may not be made. 4. Any hearing held in private under paragraph 2 must be recorded, where that is practicable, in a manner directed by the court. Where authorised under s.32 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 or s.85A of the Courts Act 2003 (as inserted by the Coronavirus Act 2020), the court may direct the hearing to be video recorded, otherwise the hearing must be audio recorded. On the application of any person, any recording so made is to be accessed in a court building, with the consent of the court. 

COVID-19; Child Contact etc Arrangements

The head of the High Court's Family Division has issued valuable guidance on what should happen where a child's parents are separated and there is a clash between (a) what an order or arrangement between them says about contact or where the child should be living at any given time and (b) stay at home rules. If an order is in force then this guidance will apply whether it was made in the High Court or Family Court in England and Wales.


These are the key points-


  • Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can - not must- be moved between their parents' homes and this is an exception to the stay at home rule.
  • Where parents agree that what an order says should be temporarily changed, that is fine but it will be advisable for this agreement to be recorded in a note, email or text message sent to each other.
  • Where parents cannot agree a temporary change but one of them is sufficiently concerned that complying with the order or usual arrangements would be against public health advice then  they can change what would normally happen to something they consider to be safe. If any challenge by an aggrieved parent  to what has been done by the other parent is later made in court then the court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and stay at home rules together with any specific evidence relating to the child or the family.
  • Where, because of the above, a parent misses out on time with their child then alternative arrangements should be made within the stay at home rules - for example, remote contact by Face-Time, Skype, Zoom etc or, if that is not possible. by telephone.

Quite obviously, this guidance should not be used as a weapon or unilateral action taken out of vengeance or for some improper motive. The child's best interests must always be paramount and misuse of the guidance could in due course have serious repercussions for the parent in the wrong. In the most urgent cases, an application to the court cannot be excluded but, for child cases, only a remote hearing is likely at the moment and the court will not be pleased by trivial disputes when it is subject to the intense pressures that the virus  has presented it with.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

COVID-19: Civil and Family Hearings: LATEST Tuesday 24 March 2020

No hearings which require people to attend in person are to take place in any civil or family court until further notice. The only exception is in the case of genuine urgency and that is likely to be limited to where the liberty of the subject is at stake. But, as I have previously reported, the court will conduct hearings remotely (by telephone, video link etc) wherever possible.