On Friday, we reported (see here) that the Master of the Rolls had suspended all possession action for 90 days.

Following on from that announcement, the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor have signed Practice Direction 51Z (PD) in relation to housing possession proceedings during the Coronavirus pandemic. It follows the Coronavirus Act 2020 and complements the provisions to prevent imminent evictions and delay possession proceedings.

The PD made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (Transitional Arrangments and Pilot Schemes) is intended 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. 

PD51Z is effective immediately and provides that:

  1. 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 [27th March 2020].

The PD confirms that:

  1. Claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay set out above; and
  2. The PD ceases to have effect on 30th October 2020.

The announcement of this PD refers specifically to 'housing possession proceedings'.  However, the PD applies to 'all proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55' and therefore appears to apply not only to all cases involving residential property, but also claims against persons unknown occupying other land  [CPR55.5(2)(b)] such as commercial properties, including retail units.  In these cases, land owners will have to consider seeking injunctive relief to remove trespassers.

NOTE -  since writing, the Master of the Rolls has amended the PD (see our note here) to remove the stay on proceedings against persons unknown!