On 27 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice published its 117th Practice Direction introducing the new Practice Direction 51Z (“PD51Z”) enacted at the start of the Coronavirus epidemic. This has now been amended following the publication of the 120th Practice Direction Update which came into force as of 18 April 2020 and provides further clarity on its application.
PD51Z supplements the Civil Procedure Rules and will have the effect of thwarting imminent evictions and delaying possession proceedings by 90 days up to 25 June 2020. All ongoing housing possession actions have been suspended so that no hearing can progress to a stage where an individual is evicted. This applies to occupation in the private and public sector, including licenses and mortgagee cases. The government is clear that Tenants who cannot pay rent will be spared eviction proceedings during the crisis.
The stay extends to proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and proceedings that seek to enforce an order for possession (by a warrant or writ of possession).
The recent amendment expressly states that the stay imposed by PD51Z does not apply to:
- claims against trespassers to which rule 55.6 applies; or
- applications for interim possession orders under Section III of Part 55, the making of such an order, hearings required by rule 55.25(4), and applications made under rule 55.28(1).
PD51Z does not prevent parties from issuing new claims and parties to existing proceedings are still permitted to make applications for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties. This should facilitate the smooth running of proceedings once the stay imposed by PD51Z has come to an end.
For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay.
There is currently no guidance as to whether Landlords may be compensated for any losses they incur as a result of the new rules. Further, it would appear that there may be a new “Pre-Action Protocol” for private sector possession claims introducing further hurdles for Landlords to overcome.