The Ministry of Justice has released their statistics for the first quarter of 2016. From January to March 2016, 38,053 landlord possession claims were issued in county courts. Jagdip Bains, solicitor in the dispute resolution team at Ansons Solicitors in Cannock and Lichfield, looks at how possession claims work and advises landlords on the best way to quickly evict tenants.
Most residential tenants will have the benefit of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which makes it a criminal offence to evict an occupier or tenant from a residential property without a court order. The safest way to proceed when dealing with a property that is either wholly, or partly, used for residential purposes is to seek an order of possession from the court to ensure that possession is obtained lawfully.
A possession order can be obtained by either using the standard procedure by first issuing a section 8 notice or a notice to quit, depending on the type of occupation. Alternatively, you can use the accelerated possession procedure if terminating an assured shorthold tenancy by serving a notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The court will list a hearing if the standard procedure is used.
The accelerated procedure is the most common procedure that we use for our clients. In the majority of cases a hearing is not listed and a possession order is obtained, giving the tenant 14 days to vacate the property. The accelerated procedure can only be included if the following requirements are complied with:
If these conditions are not met, then landlords are advised to use the standard procedure.
Given the strict requirements of the accelerated procedure to include the timing of the section 21 notice and securing the tenant’s deposit, the effect of the above is that the accelerated possession procedure is often not the fast-track route to possession that some landlords expect it to be. In many instances it is unlikely to be any more accelerated than the standard court procedure. It may be the case that the accelerated procedure as a whole becomes unworkable as judges find themselves unable to decide all the relevant issues without a hearing.
After the landlord has the benefit of a possession order and the tenant does not give vacant possession, then either a county court bailiff or a High Court Enforcement Officer is instructed to evict the tenants. The statistics published by the Ministry of Justice indicate that there is a substantial delay in instructing county court bailiffs to evict the tenant. The whole process of issuing the claim to eviction can take up to 45 weeks. At Ansons, we work closely with High Court Enforcement Officers who are able to evict tenants quickly and have a lot more resources than county court bailiffs.
Landlords are recommended to seek expert legal advice before issuing section 21 or section 8 notices if they have any doubt as to the validity of their section 21 notices and their legal obligations. Getting the process right the first time, even if it involves re-issuing a notice, undoubtedly saves costs and time, which could save you thousands of pounds in rental income.
For more advice about landlord possession claims contact Jagdip Bains at Ansons Solicitors in Cannock and Lichfield, on 01543 267 196 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.