Landlord’s views sought on review of Possession Claim Procedures

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is consulting on the enforcement of possession orders and the consistency and alignment of procedures carried out in the county court and high court. 

Landlords are being asked for their views on the current system of possession claims in a bid to make the system fairer for both landlords and tenants.

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee says the current Civil Procedure Rules have been judged to be unsatisfactory.

At present, these are the rules that dictate the enforcement of possession orders.

What are the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)?

The rules of civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in civil cases in England and Wales. They apply to all cases commenced after 26 April 1999, and largely replace the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules.

For a landlord, these rules are tailored to make submitting a claim for repossession of a property (eg, in the event of unpaid rent) much easier after distributing the original Section on the property. Designed to make the legal proceedings of such a matter quicker, cheaper and easier to understand for non-lawyers, the rules and associated guidance can increase the chances of success in court if studied conscientiously.

The CPRC however believes that the current system is not as efficient and easy to use for landlords as it should be, claiming the problem lies in that there are currently two “differing, and anomalous, systems” in the High Court and in the County Court:

– In the County Court, there is a system of administrative action and court-appointed bailiffs, involving substantial delays (to the detriment of property owners) albeit with limited costs, and a non-statutory informal procedure for occupiers to be given advance notice of evictions.

– In the High Court, there is a system of judicial involvement and external High Court Enforcement Officers, with less delay, but more cost, and a more limited provision for occupiers to be given advance notice of proceedings.

The CPRC have stated: “The differences between the two systems and the weaknesses of each, particularly in terms of delay, cost and limited notice to those being evicted (and who may have rights to apply to the court), have been noted in a number of both historic and more recent judicial decisions and in recent reports, including The Final Report of The (Briggs) Civil Courts Structure Review which recommended that there should be at least harmonisation of the operation processes of the enforcing agents.”

“The CPRC recognises that there is a balance to be struck; for example, on the one hand there may be a landlord who is owed several month’s unpaid rent and who may also be in debt as a result of the rent arrears, and on the other hand tenants or other occupiers who ought to know if and when they are to be evicted to enable them to make other provision or make their own representations to the court.  All parties should be treated fairly and with respect.  Although this issue arises mainly in the residential context, it extends also to commercial premises but where different considerations may be thought to arise.”

So what does the consultation set out by the CPRC aim to do?

In a survey set up on the Ministry of Justice’s website, the CPRC are requesting feedback on a number of factors surrounding the Possession Claim procedures. This stems back to the original filing of a section notice against the occupier of the property, what it should contain, the length of the notice, as well as whether court’s should have the power to dispense with, reduce or extend notice periods.

Landlords are invited to give their views to the consultation committee by completing the questionnaire on the Ministry of Justice’s website here.

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