Civil Listing Priorities & Housing Cases During the COVID-19 Crisis

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has published the Listing Priorities for the County Courts during the current public health emergency.

Trinity housing law barrister, Alice Richardson examines HMCTS' management of housing cases in the light of the Coronavirus crisis.

Whilst possession claims are currently stayed under the new Practice Direction 51Z there are a number of areas of housing practice which have been deemed to be priority work.

There are two categories of priority, Priority 1 is work that MUST be done and includes:

  • Committals
  • Injunctions (and return days for ex parte injunctions).The emphasis must be on those with a real time element (such as post-termination employment restrictions), noise or interference with property.
  • Anti-Social Behaviour/Harassment injunctions (not ancillary to possession)
  • Applications to stay enforcement of existing possession orders
  • Production of persons in custody following Power of Arrest detentions
  • Homelessness Applications

It will be a relief to local authorities and social housing providers to know that Anti-Social Behaviour injunctions and committals will continue to be dealt with.

Indeed it was recently reported that one Housing Association used its powers under s.1 Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 to obtain an injunction after a tenant ignored lockdown measures and hosted parties of up to 20 people.

Those dealing with homelessness matters will be reassured to see that those appeals will also be given priority. There are likely to be many cases where local authorities are struggling to meet their statutory duties, especially in light of the measures introduced to deal with rough sleepers. Elsewhere at least one authority is facing potential judicial review proceedings arising out of a suitability dispute. It is likely that there may be others as authorities attempt to navigate the current crisis.

The Priority 1 list also includes:

  • Any applications in cases listed for trial in the next three months
  • Any applications where there is a substantial hearing listed in the next month.
  • All Multi Track hearings where parties agree that it is urgent (subject to triage).
  • Appeals in all these cases.

Priority 2 cases are work that could be done and include all small claim/fast track trials where parties agree it is urgent (subject to triage) and appeals from such cases.

The lists provide an insight as to how matters are likely to prioritised by the County Court going forward. However, HMCTS have stated that it is intended that the daily operational summary page will continue to be updated daily and should therefore be regularly checked.

Of note, non-urgent trials, whichever track they are allocated to do not appear on either list. Alternative Dispute Resolution may be the way forward for many of these cases.

Whether urgent or not parties are encouraged to work cooperatively with each other to attempt to agree appropriate ways to progress matters where possible.

Members of Trinity Chambers' Housing team are on hand and available, remotely of course, to advise and assist landlords, tenants, local authorities and applicants in these difficult times. 

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