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Housing possession proceedings suspension extended again

A suspension on housing possession proceedings that was due to end this weekend will be extended by another month, according to housing lawyers.

Possession proceedings have been suspended since March to protect private and social renters, and those with mortgages and licences covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 during the Covid-19 crisis. Courts were due to resume dealing with cases on Monday, with landlords facing new requirements.

However, following multiple reports that the government will extend the suspension, the Housing Law Practitioners Association tweeted this lunchtime: ‘We have now had official confirmation that the stay on possession proceedings will be extended to 20 September.’ Earlier in the day, barrister Richard Viney said the suspension was being extended after the Civil Procedure Rule Committee was directed by the lord chancellor to amend the rules.

The government has yet to publicly confirm the extension. This will be the second time the suspension has been extended. The news has been cautiously welcomed.

Housing solicitor Giles Peaker, of Anthony Gold Solicitors, said: ‘If it is correct, as it appears to be, that the general stay on possession claims has been extended to 20 September, this had really better be to buy time for [a] longer-term legislative solution (parliament returns on 1 September). These last minute panics and extensions are unsustainable.’

South West London Law Centres said: ‘Obviously, this is great for renters but the manner in which it has been done is appalling. Courts, practitioners, tenants and landlords deserve proper warning of such changes so they can make plans for coming out of the stay. This uncertainty/flip-flopping helps no one.’

Law Society president Simon Davis said the government and the courts have passed new court rules and provided extra protections to vulnerable tenants and those significantly affected by the pandemic. ‘However, more needs to be done, including resolving the legal aid deserts currently preventing tenants in some areas from receiving legal advice and making wider legislative changes to prevent a spike in homelessness,’ Davis said.

UPDATE (4pm): The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that the ban on evictions will continue for another four weeks. To protect tenants from eviction over the winter, landlords will be required to provide tenants with six months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.