Changes to evictions have made the process of obtaining possession of a rental property longer for landlords, reports leading tenant eviction firm Landlord Action.
The process of accelerated possession, through applying to use High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to evict a tenant, has recently been altered, putting an end to the so-called seven-day eviction.
The majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county court and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, with a backlog of cases and a reduction in bailiffs leading to longer waiting times in some courts, it can take several weeks for bailiffs to carry out an eviction, which is longer than most landlords wish to wait when suffering from rent arrears.
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In some cases, landlords can apply for their case to be transferred to the High Court once a possession order has been issued, so that an HCEO can conduct the eviction, which is generally a much quicker process.
However, with district judges experiencing an increasing number of such applications, the Ministry of Justice has changed the process for obtaining Writs of Possession, adding a further two steps to the procedure and an additional £200 fee for landlords.
Some firms have built their business on advertising the seven-day eviction, which, according to Landlord Action, was always extremely misleading for landlords.
The founder of the firm, Paul Shamplina, explains: “This was only ever possible from the point a case was transferred up to the High Court, and not from when a landlord instructed an eviction firm.”
However, even this process has now changed, as the additional administration and waiting for approval could add a further six to eight weeks in some eviction cases.
The new process involves an application (using an N244 form) to the county court for permission to transfer up to the High Court for enforcement, at which point a £100 fee is charged. Following that, a further application to the High Court or district registry for permission to issue a Writ of Possession (N244 form) is required, with another £100 fee. Once permission has been granted, yet another application is required using form PF92 (Order for Permission to issue a Writ of Possession in the High Court).
Additionally, all parties must now be notified of the application, which must be evidenced by a witness statement. This will confirm that each person in actual possession of the property has been given notice in writing of the application, and that any such person has made no application for relief. This step was not previously required.
Landlord Action uses Court Enforcement Services (CES) to provide the fastest route to High Court enforcement.
Although it was not previously required, Landlord Action has used the process of informing occupants of a landlord’s intention to transfer to the High Court for some time. Despite this, CES claims that the additional administration and waiting for approval could add six to eight weeks to some cases.
The Joint Managing Director of CES, Daren Simcox, comments: “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 were 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 seven days before an application for permission to issue the writ can be made, to allow for any applications for relief.”
He adds: “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.”
Shamplina concludes: “As a result, 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 timescales to a minimum, despite the changes.”