Social Housing landlords and reactivation

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There’s some welcome news for landlords as the stay on possession proceedings comes to an end on 24 August. A proposal currently being considered is that claims should be prioritised where there are allegations of anti-social behaviour, extreme arrears which accrued pre-pandemic, squatters/persons unknown, domestic violence if possession is in the victim’s interests, allegations of fraud or deception and allegations of unlawful subletting. How the Court will manage this process, if such cases are prioritised, remains to be seen.

The stay on individual possessions claims will not be automatically removed. Landlords must file at Court a reactivation notice in respect of any claim issued by the Court before 3 August 2020, whether the claim is based on rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, a Section 21 notice or any other ground for possession.

There is currently no prescribed reactivation form that landlords must use. Any notice will obviously need to include details of the parties, case number and Court location. It must also make clear whether the landlord wishes the case to be listed, relisted, heard or, in the case of a claim brought under Section 21, referred to a Judge.

If a landlord is relying on rent arrears, then a rent statement covering the last two years must accompany the notice.

A landlord is expected to investigate whether coronavirus has impacted on their tenants and to document the steps they have taken to contact the tenant. The Court will need to know what information a landlord has about the change of a tenant’s circumstances as a result of coronavirus, such as the financial effect on those that contribute to the household income, health (physical or mental) and the death of a relative or dependant.

We would suggest that rent officers and neighbourhood managers begin to make enquires now, and every attempt at contact should be documented. The method of contact used, whether by letter/email or telephone/text, should be made clear.  Record keeping will be key in progressing cases at the current time and it won’t be sufficient to try to make contact on one occasion only.

The reactivation notice must be filed with the Court before a case can proceed. However, it should not be sent to the Court prior to 24 August, which is when the stay comes to an end, as anything sent before that day may not be valid.  Landlords should start making enquiries now so that the reactivation notice can be sent to the Court at the earliest opportunity.

Where there is a final possession order, cases do not need to be reactivated and it’s possible to make an application for a bailiff warrant in the usual way. Notably, the fee for making an application to stay a warrant has been reduced to £14 and it’s likely that the sector will see a lot more applications to suspend warrants over the coming months.