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Possession proceedings stopped during outbreak

The government and lenders have moved to stop new possession proceedings through applications to the courts during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Announcing the move, the government said it worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit.

 

It comes as the government announces a ban on evictions and additional protection for renters.

 

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance said lenders have also agreed a three-month moratorium on residential and buy-to-let possession action.

 

“The industry wants to reassure customers that they will not have their homes repossessed at this difficult time,” he said.

 

Robin Fieth, chief executive of the Building Societies Association, said: “Now is a time for lenders to be flexible. The steps being taken by the industry today will offer some breathing space for those affected by the Covid-19 situation whether directly or indirectly.”

 

A joint statement from UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA) set out the operation to pause possessions:

  • Lenders will suspend all possession orders;
  • Lenders will not commence any court action, including putting the case to court or instructing on matters;
  • Lenders are able to issue a formal demand, so that the customer is aware of the money they owe and are informed that the case will eventually go to possession proceedings;
  • Firms will agree not to take any further steps until the end of the 90-day period;
  • There are exceptions for empty properties or where the customer wants the possession to go ahead;
  • In buy-to-let, lenders would still use a Receiver of Rent where appropriate but would not move to possession if the tenant could not pay

Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of CIVEA, the civil enforcement trade association, said the guidance to agents is “not to enter homes and suspend enforcement where there is coronavirus”.

 

“It’s a very fluid situation and some councils have asked firms to continue recovery by calls, texts and emails,” he said. “Others have stopped all action. The advice is changing hourly and our best practice may be superseded by events.”

 

Hamblin-Boone also explained that CIVEA members had received best practice guidance in the last week, based on advice from members.

 

“I was encouraged how their policies were consistent,” he said.

 

The number of property repossessions seen across England and Wales over the last 12 months dropped two percent, according to Land Registry data this month.

 

There were 7,906 repossessions across England and Wales in the last 12 months, down from 8,065 the year before.

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