In a move that amends the Practice Direction 51Z issued on 27th March 2020, the 120th practice direction update allows possession proceedings against persons unknown, which is excellent news for landowners who have trespassers on their premises during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new practice direction update was signed by the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor and is effective from 18th April 2020 and will cease to have effect on 30th October 2020.

Claims against persons unknown permitted

The update clarifies that the stay which PD 51Z imposes on possession proceedings does not apply to a claim against trespassers to which rule 55.6 applies. i.e. the claim is against “persons unknown” and the claim form, particulars of claim and any witness statements have been correctly served on the trespassers.

Interim possession orders permitted

The stay imposed by PD51Z imposes does not apply to applications for, and the making of, interim possession orders under Section III of CPR Pt 55. The stay also does not apply to hearings required by rule 55.25(4), and applications under rule 55.28(1).

Applications for direction permitted

The practice direction update also allows parties to possession proceedings to make applications for case management directions where they are agreed by the parties. This decision to allow case management directions to proceed will make it much easier for possession proceedings to resume effectively once the 90-day stay has expired.

Claims for injunctive relief

The stay on possession proceedings imposed by PD51Z does not cover the issue of claims for injunctive relief.

For further information

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how you can safely remove trespassers during the COVID-19 pandemic, please get in touch with our Commercial Services team.

David Asker

David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance