Ascent continues to be involved in various discussion groups created across courts in England & Wales to consider what steps should be put in place for when possession proceedings return. These sessions are often chaired by a District Judge. The attendees provide ideas/feedback and this is collated to be shared with the Judiciary so a consistent approach can be considered across all courts.
Mortgage Possession Cases
For mortgage possession cases in particular since Lenders are also required to follow guidance from regulatory bodies it has been proposed that these cases should not automatically be re-listed from the end of June when the initial 90 day period stay ends [Pursuant to CPR PD 51Z]. Therefore it has been proposed, if possible, it should be left for the parties to apply for re-listing of a hearing. Lenders will be well aware, of course, of the FCA’s published position this week effectively placing such matters on hold until 31 October 2020.
All Court Hearings
Depending upon Court’s resources, there is a possibility that a hearing may take place either by telephone, video conferencing or hybrid (where only the Defendant is asked to attend in person) or by all parties attending in person (with social distancing rules). Due to it being likely that most of the hearings will be heard virtually, the volume of hearings which can now be heard in one day will be limited. There will be an increased focus on filing/serving of e-bundles and compliance with court deadlines prior to each hearing to allow court files to be updated and for Defendants to be able to seek independent legal advice. Where possible, parties are encouraged to agree settlement terms prior to a listed hearing.
Legal advice for Defendants
Concerns have been raised on how can a Defendant obtain advice virtually when generally they would rely upon doing so from Duty Solicitor on the day of the hearing? Can Duty Solicitor contracts be extended to include remote advice and attending remote hearings? Could there be a dedicated time slot offered via Shelter or CAB on the morning of possession hearing list? How will a vulnerable Defendant engage with the Claimant and/or Court if they struggle to communicate? These matters remain under consideration.
Whilst there are a number of unanswered questions at this stage at Ascent we will continue to monitor and support any new developments which are introduced in due course. Should you wish to raise any points for us to factor into these discussions, or if you wish to discuss any of the contents of this note please contact me, Shilpi Jairath, on 07702116285.
Client Relationship Manager, Ascent