Civil Litigation update

Landlord & Tenant

Covid-19 delays to evictions

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and came into force on 26 March 2020. The Act was passed as an emergency measure in response to the spread of Covid-19.

Housing Act 1988 section 8 notices

In respect of assured and assured shorthold tenancies of properties in England, the notice period to be given before possession proceedings can be commenced as specified in a section 8 notice under the HA 1988, which is served during the Relevant Period (currently between 26 March 2020 – 30 September 2020) has been extended to three months (paragraph 6, Schedule 29, CVA 2020). – Landlords should check before serving a notice as this September date may be further extended).

This means that where, for example, a claim for recovery of possession based on rent arrears (relying on grounds 8, 10 and 11 of Schedule 2 to the HA 1988) could ordinarily be started after just two weeks from the date of service of a section 8 notice, the earliest date after which court proceedings can now be brought cannot be earlier than the expiry of three months from the date of service of the notice.

Housing Act 1988 section 21 notices

In respect of assured shorthold tenancies of properties in England, the notice period to be given in a section 21 notice under the HA 1988 which is served during the Relevant Period (see above) has been increased from two months to three months (paragraph 7, Schedule 29, CVA 2020).

Alternatives to Litigation?

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely interrupted the civil court system, with most hearings and trials being held remotely by video or telephone wherever possible. Judges are conducting a few urgen hearings in person in designated court buildings under strict social distancing rules but only where these cases cannot be heard remotely or delayed.

There has never been a better time to consider alternatives to formal litigation as a means to resolving a dispute.

Alternative dispute resolution

There are various forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which do not depend on a formal court-room setting. Mediation, the most widely known form of ADR, is a flexible, confidential and private process in which parties to a dispute work with a mediator, appointed by them to facilitate a negotiated settlement. The parties to a mediation do not have a resolution imposed on them (as would happen in court) but choose to opt into a settlement on terms which they have agreed. This freedom to own the solution to the dispute is one reasons why Mediation is such a successful alternative to litigation. Negotiations are conducted on a “without prejudice” basis which means that anything said during the mediation process cannot later be used against a party if the dispute fails to be resolved. If the dispute is settled, as happens in the vast majority of cases, the mediator ends the process by preparing a formal, legally binding settlement agreement incorporating the terms agreed for the parties to sign.

Mediators have adapted well to the new Covid-19 landscape and almost all are now able to deliver their services remotely, via Internet video-conferencing or telephone.

Almost any dispute is suitable for mediation – from commercial and contract disputes to neighbour disputes, and disputes concerning wills and inheritance. Mediation is usually cheaper, faster, more efficient and less stressful than litigation.

If you are involved in a dispute and would like to explore whether mediation might help you to resolve it, please speak to Mike Blank on 01895 612400 or email mblank@allsopdurn.co.uk.

Mike Blank

Senior Associate Solicitor heads our Employment Law department, advising both Employees and Employers.

Contact Mike to discuss how we can assist with an Employment related issue on 01895 612400 or email mblank@allsopdurn.co.uk

Our solicitors provide personalised guidance and experienced representation throughout the legal process, always working towards your best possible outcome.