A guidance document has now been issued by the courts in England & Wales on the return of Possession Hearings and what to expect. Needless to say, this is a fluid document which may be subject to change as the position develops.
A key change is introduction of Review (R) hearing and Substantive (S) hearings. After a reactivation notice (see previous briefings here) has been filed by the Claimant (pursuant to CPR PD 55C) a paper based R hearing will be listed 21 days later. The R hearing will take place at the end of each court listing day with a time estimate of 5 minutes. The R hearing is listed primarily to give the customer an opportunity to engage with the Duty Solicitor early on in the process and be able to obtain free legal advice.
While a Lender is not required to be in attendance at the R hearing, it is expected that the Lender and/or it’s representative will be available to discuss the case by telephone with the Customer and/or Duty Solicitor. In readiness for the R hearing the Lender will be required to file a paper bundle of documents upon which it intends to rely for a possession claim. The Judge will review the paper bundle during the R hearing and – providing the documents are in order – the S hearing will be listed 28 days after the R hearing. It remains to be seen if customers will engage and use the R hearing to seek advice and if this will add any benefit or simply add a delay to the existing process.
It is expected that all parties will attend the S hearing, though this may depend in part on the facilities offered by each court – by audio, video link or physically. The hearings will be listed for 15 minutes each with additional time between each hearing to complete safety procedures. The S hearing will be progressed like current “Possession Hearings” with varying outcomes.
The Courts will continue to accommodate appeals, applications to suspend a warrant for possession, set aside possession order or stay enforcement as usual.
If Court Order requires a Lender to attend S hearings in person, the Courts are asking for multiple reactivation notices (up to a maximum of 30) to be filed by Lender Solicitors in a spreadsheet format so each Court can block list hearings for the same Lender. This will reduce physical footfall in the Court building. It is also recommended that one Advocate represents a Lender for multiple hearings listed in one day.
There is no update at this stage of Evictions and Enforcement activity; we anticipate that this will be forthcoming in next few weeks.
It has also recently been confirmed that there is no change (and there will not imminently be any change) to the MPAP Checklist (Form N123).
We will continue to monitor and support any new developments which are introduced in due course. Should you wish to discuss any of the contents of this note please contact me, Shilpi Jairath or call me on 07702116285.