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Covid-19: Vacant land and premises

2nd April 2020

Covid-19: Vacant land and premises

Covid 19 – Important information for landlords and tenants of vacant land and premises

To take account of the impact of Covid-19, the Civil Procedure Rules (which govern how litigation is conducted) have been supplemented by a new Practice Direction 51Z (PD).

Going further than the Coronavirus Act 2020 (which prohibits landlords taking possession by forfeiting for unpaid rent until after 30 June 2020), the new PD provides that “All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession …. are stayed for a period of 90 days …”.

A possibly unintended consequence is that the PD will also apply to possession claims against trespassers, in effect giving a three month licence to trespass.  Although squatting in residential premises is now a criminal offence, whether that will be enforced by Police during the ongoing crisis remains to be seen.  For all premises, including residential, commercial premises and open land, parties will be unable to obtain assistance from the Court to remove trespassers. Landowners do have common law rights to use reasonable force to recover possession in certain circumstances, but these should be used with caution and legal advice sought before taking any steps.

Tenants who have an obligation to deliver vacant possession in the run up to lease expiry, or because they have exercised a conditional break option, could face particular difficulty if they are unable to comply with their obligations because trespassers gain access to vacant premises.  

It is possible that current lobbying to have the PD dis-applied to trespass claims will be successful, but in the meantime landlords and tenants of vacant land and premises should do all they can to protect against trespassers.

What should you be doing to minimise risk?

  • Conduct checks, where safe and possible to do so, on vacant land and premises;
  • Increase security measures on vacant land and premises, to avoid unauthorised access;
  • Consider employing security firms to monitor and protect particularly vulnerable vacant land and premises (or those where you have an obligation to deliver up vacant possession at lease expiry or as a condition of a break clause)

If you have any queries relating to property litigation, please contact Nyree Applegarth on 07595 657733 or Nyree.applegarth@higgsandsons.co.uk 

For help and support with any other personal or business legal issues during the Covid-19 crisis, please call us on 0345 111 5050 or email supportingyou@higgsandsons.co.uk

 

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