Landlord Action says under-resourced county courts are struggling to cope with the number of possession claims being put forward, resulting in costly delays for landlords.
The vast majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county courts and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, government spending cuts, an ever growing number of possession cases and the enforcement by some courts that bailiffs must no longer act alone, only in pairs, have combined to create serious delays in the eviction process.
A backlog of cases and a reduction of bailiffs have lead to longer waiting times in some courts, meaning that it can take several weeks for bailiffs to carry out an eviction, which is longer than most landlords wish to wait when suffering further loss of rent.
In some cases, landlords can apply for their case to be transferred to the High Court once a possession order has been made, so that High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) can carry out the eviction – generally a much quicker process. But the leading tenant eviction service says the situation has been exasperated by recent changes to the process of accelerated possession, through applying to use HCEOs to evict a tenant, which has brought an end the so called ‘7-day eviction’.
With district judges across the country seeing a sharp rise in the number of such applications, the Ministry of Justice has changed the process for obtaining Writs of Possession, adding a further two steps to the application process and an additional £200 fee. What’s more, the added administration and waiting for approval could add a further 6-8 weeks in some eviction cases, according to Landlord Action.
The process now involves an application (using N244 form) to the issuing County Court for permission to transfer up to the High Court for enforcement, at which point a fee of £100 is payable. Following that, a further application to the High Court or District Registry for permission to issue a Writ of Possession (N244 form), at which point there is a court fee of £100 payable. Once permission has been granted to issue the High Court Writ of Possession, yet another application is required using form PF92 (Order for Permission to Issue a writ of possession in the High Court).
In addition, all parties must now be notified of the application, which needs to be evidenced by a witness statement. This must confirm that each and every person in actual possession has been given notice, in writing, of the application, and that no application for relief has been made by any such person. A further step not previously required
Daren Simcox, joint managing director of Court Enforcement Services, said: “The recent change to the process was brought about by some firms bypassing the correct procedure and using the incorrect forms. Previous practices of using the N293a form was incorrect, as this form is only intended for trespassers. The Civil Procedure Rules, Rule 83.13, requires all occupants to be notified of the application to transfer proceedings to the High Court for enforcement.
"Under the new process, there must be an application to the issuing county court for permission to transfer up. The application turnaround is dependent on the issuing court and their workload, this will add additional time to the eviction process. In addition to this, all occupants must be given notice of the application, which must also be evidenced within a witness statement included with the PF92 application, which adds an additional 7 days before an application for permission to issue the writ can be made, to allow for any applications for relief.
"A further application of a request to issue A Writ of Possession PF89, or request to issue a combined Writ of possession and control PF89, is then lodged with High Court together with the writ for sealing."
Landlord Action uses Court Enforcement Services (CES) to provide the fastest route to High Court Enforcement.
Paul Shamplina at Landlord Action said: “Desperate landlords with severe cases could now suffer further. We are in the process of ensuring that our system is as efficient as possible to keep time scales to a minimum despite the changes.”