COVID-19 and Possession Claims

COVID-19 and Possession Claims

COVID-19 and Possession Claims

The whole of the UK has been making swift and radical changes due to the outbreak of Covid-19.  It has changed the way in which we work and live, and it is important that we comply with the Government’s advice.  You may be asking what this means for you, if you have a current court case or possession proceedings.

On the 18thMarch 2020 the Government announced emergency legislation which would:

  • Stop any new possession claims (social and private tenancies) begin issued at the court for the next three months.
  • Any current possession claims that have been issued are to be stayed, and are to be picked up again in 3 months’ time.
  • A new pre-action protocol for possession claims, to apply after three months which will apply to private as well as social tenancies to help support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants, to help resolve disputes. Landlords should be reaching out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.

Rent Possession Claims

This has now been released by the Government, and alters the period of notice to three months under Section 21 notices. This is to be up until 30thSeptember 2020.  This means if you are a tenant seeking possession, the notice period is now three months instead of one, whatever the grounds or reasons are for you seeking possession.

Possession Proceedings

The overall advice from the Court on these matters are that warrants, injunctions and committals should be suspended.  All judges need to have the public health guidance in mind when ordering possession proceedings and should not make an order that will impact anyone’s health.

The Court have also advised that injunctions and committal hearings are not suitable for phone hearings but prior engagement can be handled via emails or telephone.  There is a lack of guidance on this area of law, but the main advice is for judges to be wary of government guidance and to postpone cases where they can.

Overall

The overall guidance is to avoid court wherever possible and be sensible and pragmatic.  The Court are advising to provide alternative arrangements wherever possible and minimise attendance at Court.  Therefore, if you have an upcoming Court hearing, this may be adjourned or arranged for over the phone.  If you have current possession proceedings, they are being stayed for 3 month’s time and if you wish to start new possession proceedings you must give your tenant 3 month’s notice.

GoodyBurrett’s litigation and property departments are continuing as normal.  If you need any help or guidance on the pressures you are facing due to Covid-19, please get in contact with us.

If you have any questions on the above points

Contact GoodyBurrett on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]

What happens to shared care of, and contact to, children during the Covid crisis?

What happens to shared care of, and contact to, children during the Covid crisis?

What happens to shared care of, and contact to, children during the Covid crisis?

If you have either a voluntary agreement or court order which enables your child to share his/her time between parents or a contact agreement or order, your default position should be that these arrangements continue and that suspension of any existing arrangements should be a last resort.  The order or arrangement was made because contact is in the child/ren’s best interests.  However, we are all aware that this is a difficult time and that there are government restrictions in place as to travelling and social distancing.

Let’s assume for present purposes, that neither parent nor the child/ren actually have Coronavirus.  There are two key pieces of government-issued guidance to consider.
The first are the ‘Social distancing’ guidelines last updated on 30th March and the second is the guidance issued by the President of the Family Division on 24th March.

The President’s Guidance recommends that as far as possible, if/how shared care/contact should take place during this difficult time is up to the parents to decide between themselves.  It is an exercise of their joint Parental Responsibility to make sensible decisions on behalf of their child/ren:  Para 1 of the Guidance says: ‘Parental Responsibility for a child……..rests with the child’s parents and not with the court.’

If at all possible you should carry on with the arrangement and try to discuss on a practical level how shared care/contact is going to take place.

If you need advice, another good place to look is on the  CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) website as they too have published guidance:

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/covid-19-guidance-for-children-and-families/

‘If any court directed spending time arrangements are missed, think about how you and your co-parent may be able to make up your child’s time after restrictions are lifted. Remember, any rearranged spending time arrangements should always be for your child’s benefit and should not be used as a source of tension or conflict – especially at a time when your child is likely to feel anxious about the effects of the pandemic,’

‘If your household is not in self-isolation, then it is still recommended that you and your child maintain sensible social distancing from members of the public. This means avoiding social activities such as going to restaurants, theatres and cinemas and only using public transport if you really have to,’

‘Unless you or your child has an underlying health condition or other vulnerability, transporting them from one home to the other would usually be a legitimate journey,’

So, moving children between homes is an exception to the ‘stay-at-home’ principle and a parent should not object to contact on that factor alone.  On the other hand, what does the journey between homes involve?  Travelling through London on public transport at the moment is probably to be avoided so you might need to look for other ways that direct contact can continue – can someone with a car help with the journey?  Can you meet safely in another area?

Where, a child does not get to spend time with the other parent as set down in any agreement or court order,  alternative arrangements could be made to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent within the ‘Stay at Home’ rules, for example remotely – by Face-Time, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone.

What happens if you and your ex really can’t agree what should happen?  Where parents can’t agree to vary the current shared care/contact, and one parent is sufficiently concerned that complying with those arrangements would be against current Covid social distancing/travelling advice, then that parent may exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they believe is safe.  If, afterwards, this is questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the ‘Stay at Home’ rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family. Is there a genuine medical reason why that parent took that view?

So, if after trying to discuss arrangements with your ex,  you really feel you have no option but to stop shared residence/contact, then you should be prepared to justify your unilateral action and to consider making up any time your child/ren lose with their non-resident parent once this health crisis is behind us.

Of course, if either a parent or child is classified as vulnerable, the situation is a little different albeit if a parent is vulnerable but the child is not, shared care/contact should still continue with practical arrangements for collection, return, travel etc varied as can be agreed.  If either parent or the child is actually suffering from Coronavirus, then the arrangements will  be suspended  as they would be for any illness.  Keep a note of any agreement reached and the number of days/ hours the child loses with the non- resident parent as evidence may be required if the suspension of contact ends up disputed in court.

As ever, communication is key so be kind, be patient and be safe.​

Our Family team are always available to advise.  Our Family department can be contacted via email [email protected] or by calling 01206 577676.

You can learn more about our Family team and the services we offer here.

If you would like any advice on family matters

Contact our Family team at GoodyBurrett on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]

Our Private Client Team

Our Private Client Team

Our Private Client team are here for you

During these unprecedented times, we hope you are all staying safe and well.

Although not present in the office, our Private Client department is still working and happy to assist in any way possible.

We are very flexible in offering telephone or video appointments and continuing to support our existing and new clients.

We understand that clients will be concerned about signing and completing their Will.  We suggest that in these circumstances you give us a call and we can suggest ways in which this can be safely accomplished.

We are also continuing to support and collaborate with Free Wills Month and National Free Wills Network.

If you have any queries about your existing matter with us or any new enquiries, then please do not hesitate to contact the Private Client team on 01206 577676 or email [email protected] 

For more information on your Will or any questions you may have

Contact our Private Client team on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]

The first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job

The first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job

Human nature…..we just can’t help ourselves

A bookseller was the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his “sandal-wearing” boss.

Joe G , 37, worked for Waterstone’s in Edinburgh for 11 years but says he was dismissed without warning for “gross misconduct” and “bringing the company into disrepute” through the comments he posted on his weblog.

In the US, Ellen Simonetti was sacked from her job as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines after her bosses saw pictures of her posing in her uniform on her website, which recounted the adventures of an anonymous flight attendant who worked for “Anonymous Airline”.

Jessica Cutler, a 24-year-old secretary at a senator’s office who wrote about selling sex to officials in Washington under the online name of Washingtonienne, was outed on the internet and sacked from her job.

GoodyBurrett LLP once acted for a Company that dismissed a girl for posting comments about her job on Facebook.

Whilst employment law protects employees from all kinds of mischief it cannot protect them from themselves.

If you are looking for employment advice

Contact our Litigation team at GoodyBurrett on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]