Coronavirus: Court extend the remit in respect of the automatic 90-day stay on possession proceedings but raise questions relating to jurisdiction in the process

In response to the coronavirus pandemic the Government introduced emergency legislation which included CPR PD 51Z, the effect of which is to impose automatic 90-day stay on possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55. The automatic stay came into force on 27 March 2020.

The tenant of a property subject to a possession order made in January 2020 had obtained permission to appeal that order and the appeal was listed to be heard in May 2020. A dispute arose between the parties as to whether the appellate court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal pending the expiration of the stay. A County Court judge vacated the appeal hearing and transferred the dispute to the High Court. The tenant contended via an appellant notice that, following Arkin v Marshall [2020], the judge should have stayed the appeal and should not have lifted the automatic stay in order to refer the jurisdictional issue to the High Court.

The issue was therefore whether appeals against possession orders fell within the automatic stay imposed by CPR PD 51Z as possession orders themselves did.

Allowing the tenant’s appeal, the Court held that although the judgment in Arkin made no reference to appeals, it explained that the sole purpose of the automatic stay was to ease the burden on judges and staff in the County Court as possession proceedings comprise an immense part of their workload. Although CPR PD 51Z makes no mention of appeals, the Court interpreted the wording “all proceedings brought under CPR Part 55” to include all stages of such proceedings, even when they reached the appeal stage. Therefore, the automatic stay extended to the tenant’s appeal. 

Quite why the tenant contended so vociferously that his own appeal against the possession of his property be stayed is questionable. The only explanation could be that he wished to take advantage of the alleviating emergency legislation to further delay and frustrate proceedings.

Hackney LBC v Okoro


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