The Civil Procedure Rules have undergone a large number of updates recently with updates 70 to 74 coming in quick succession. These have made some changes to the procedures for dealing with possession claims.
Unified County Court
The County Court is now a unified body, known as the single County Court. One of the effects of this is that possession claims can now be commenced in any County Court without worrying about whether that Court serves the property concerned. However if you start in a County Court Hearing Centre which does not serve the property concerned then the claim will be issued and then transferred to the County Court Hearing Centre that serves that property address. However, PD55A para 1.1(2) points out that this will cause delay to the proceedings. Therefore the old rules on starting in the local County Court are still the best policy.
For accelerated claims this is less of an issue as these are usually dealt with on paper. However, if the matter is set down for a hearing then it may at that stage be transferred to a different County Court Hearing Centre if it was not issued in the one that deals with the specific property address. This may cause a delay at that stage.
For claims against squatters any County Court is also acceptable for issue. However, given the need for personal service the practical effect is that the case that the Court which serves the Property is likely to be the most appropriate.
There is a right to transfer proceedings from the County Court to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer (or Sheriff). However, this is a restricted right. This used to be dealt with under RSC 45, r 3(2) and RSC 113, r 7. These rules have all been repealed and the provisions can now be found under CPR 83.13. Mortgage possession actions and actions against trespassers can still be enforced under this rule as of right. For all other types of occupier the permission of the County Court will be required under CPR 83.13(2) and this will need to be sought by written application (which can be done on the claim form). Courts are very variable in their approach to granting permission and it should not be assumed it will be obtained. There is now a greater level of restriction as CPR 83.13(8) states that permission will not be granted unless it is shown that “every person in actual possession of the whole or any part of the land ('the occupant') has received such notice of the proceedings as appears to the court sufficient to enable the occupant to apply to the court for any relief to which the occupant may be entitled”. It may be worth asking as it makes the enforcement process faster and if permission is given there is no obligation to take advantage of it. However, it seems likely that permission will now mor commonly be refused at the initial stage as there will be no means for the Court to assess whether an individual has had sufficient notice unless they are actually present at Court.