Courts get back into gear after Covid restraints

Overall arrangements for possession proceedings, published by the Judiciary in response to Covid restrictions, ‘should no longer be viewed as governing or guiding court procedures’ the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos has announced.

These arrangements ended on 1 November and have not been replaced; meaning that procedures set out in the pre-Covid Rules and Practice Directions now apply.

Courts now no longer need to schedule two separate hearings (review and a substantive) before being able to issue a possession order. Instead, landlords should need one hearing, which should be scheduled within eight weeks of a claim.

As restrictions are wound down, cases will also be scheduled based on when the claim was made, rather than the circumstances of the case. This will be welcome news for landlords who served Section 21 notices, as they were the lowest priority cases, said the National Residential Landlords Association.

‘Cutting additional review hearings from the court process will make the system more efficient, which will help tackle the significant backlog of cases that has built as a result of Covid-19, giving landlords more timely access to justice’, said NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle who sat on the Master of the Rolls working group.

Now that the overall arrangements have ended, the Master of the Rolls has established a new Court Users’ Committee for Possession Proceedings chaired by Lord Justice Males. The NRLA has been asked to sit on the Committee to represent members’ interests.

Notice periods returned to pre-Covid requirements in England on October. In Wales restrictions on enforcement have ended, but default six-month notice periods remain in place until the end of the year for most types of possession notice, except antisocial behaviour.