Courts are now introducing Review Hearings to prioritise eviction cases during lockdown, adding more red tape for anxious landlords.
The purpose of the new hearings, conducted over the phone, is to determine whether the landlord’s case should proceed to a substantive hearing at a later date.
However in order to determine this, landlords - or their solicitors - must provide a Review Bundle comprising claims form, particulars of the claim, defence, rent statements for the last two years with a running total of arrears, daily rate of rent and interest, the tenancy agreement, statements setting out previous attempts to recover arrears and the effect of Covid on the landlord.
On top of that, they should include any additional information on the effect of Covid on the tenants and an Order from court.
The Review Bundle must be filed at court via email and a copy issued to the tenants 14 days ahead of the Review Hearing. If the bundle is not filed, cases can be struck out.
Eviction specialist consultancy Landlord Action has set up a team to handle the additional workload caused by the reviews, and founder Paul Shamplina is outspoken in his criticism of the time and cost this burden is causing landlords.
“We understand that this stage has been introduced to alleviate the current backlog of cases and assist the courts in prioritising the most urgent cases. However, it is adding a further delay for landlords, which in turn means additional costs.
“The level of work required to prepare Review Bundles is substantial and as such, Landlord Action has had to set up a whole new team dedicated to dealing specifically with the extra work that the Review Hearings process has created.
“Whether a landlord’s case proceeds as priority to a Substantive Hearing will be determined by the evidence submitted prior to the hearing so there is no margin for error.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise this delay for landlords but it is unexpected additional work. We then have to replicate the work again for a Substantive Hearing, which is set for some time after the Review Hearing and requires attendance and representation.”
Shamplina does identify one positive for landlords, however.
That is, it’s possible that a settlement could be reached at Review Hearing which would prevent the case having to go to court. In addition, on a small number of Review Hearings, Landlord Action has received a possession order rather than directions for a further hearing.