June 2020 – Freeze on Eviction Appeals
In a new judgment, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the COVID-19 related freeze on evictions also imposes a freeze on eviction appeal proceedings.
In a recent case (London Borough of Hackney v Okoro) the tenant (Mr Okoro), contended that appeals were included in the limits to evictions introduced by the Coronavirus Act (see news article for April), while the landlord, (London Borough of Hackney), contended that appeals were excluded.
The judgement of the court sets out the factual background to the appeal, including that Hackney had issued a claim for possession against Mr Okoro for possession and payment of rent arrears and damages & on 24 January 2020, DDJ Tomlinson had made a possession order. He adjourned the money claims to be heard on 17 March 2020 and refused permission to appeal. However, Mr Okoro was subsequently granted permission to appeal but no further progress on the appeal could be made following the freeze on possession proceedings from 27 March 2020 onwards.
Answering the question of whether the automatic stay applies to appeals from possession orders that were outstanding when the stay began, the court stated that while the legislation does not mention appeals it would be odd if applications to set aside a possession order made in the absence of a defendant were covered by the stay but appeals directed at achieving the same result were not.
As a result, the regulations to freeze possession proceedings had the effect of imposing a stay on any appeal against a possession order.As a consequence the outstanding aspects of the claim, including the appeal will be returned to the County Court for further consideration after the termination of the stay imposed by the current regulations.
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