Thank you to the 500 plus landlords and property lawyers who registered onto the webinar on 18th June.
New streamlined procedures that make it easier for landlords to use a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to evict residential tenants came into force on 23rd August 2020.
We had more questions than there was time to answer. They broadly fall into two categories – the enforcement side and the serving notice/transfer up aspects. We will address the enforcement questions in this article and cover off the remaining ones in another article to follow shortly.
Can I seek unpaid rent from over 5 years ago?
Yes you can. You have six years in which to obtain a judgment, which can then be enforced by an HCEO (High Court Enforcement Officer) under a writ of control if payment is still not made.
What happens to the enforcement of an unpaid debt judgment against an evicted tenant that was obtained over 6 years ago?
Normally the judgment is only valid for 6 years. You can apply to court for it to be extended, but will need to provide a valid reason for why it was not enforced before, but might be enforceable now.
Are the charges to enforce a judgment either for possession or money passed on to the tenant/debtor?
In the case of a money judgment for rent arrears (or any other debt), the enforcement costs, court fees, judgment interest and the original debt are all recoverable from the debtor/tenant. If enforcement is unsuccessful, then all you will then pay towards the cost of enforcement is the £75 plus VAT compliance fee.
In the case of the enforcement of a possession order, the landlord will pay the costs of the eviction, which will have been estimated and agreed with them in advance of the eviction.
Are you allowed to force entry to a property if the tenant won't open the door?
If we are evicting the tenant from the property, then we can force entry as the writ of possession authorises us to return the property to the owner.
However, in the case of enforcing a money judgment solely for rent arrears, neither HCEOs nor County Court Bailiffs (CCB) may force entry to residential premises (although HCEOs are allowed to force entry to commercial premises). We are permitted to climb perimeter walls and fences, enter via any open or unlocked door, or any usual means by which entry is gained to the premises.
If the tenant won’t allow entry, or is not at home, then what do you do?
If evicting the tenant, we will continue with the eviction until it is completed and the property returned to the landlord or their representative.
If enforcing a money judgment, we will look for seizable assets belonging to the debtor on the property, most often a vehicle, and if that is not possible or of sufficient value, we will arrange to attend on another occasion.
Do the HCEOs have more power to get a tenant out over a County Court bailiff?
For a residential eviction, the powers are the same. However, HCEOs can normally attend more quickly, they will enforce the writ outside normal working hours if necessary and they will not leave until the eviction is complete. We do hear of CCBs only allowing a certain amount of time for an eviction and leaving if it cannot be completed in that time.
What is a transfer up and a notice of enforcement?
The transfer up is when a County Court judgment or order is transferred to the High Court for enforcement by an HCEO. It does, however, remain a County Court judgment.
The notice of enforcement is the first stage of the enforcement process for a money judgment, whether by an HCEO or a CCB. It gives the debtor/tenant seven clear days in which to pay the full sum owing. Notice of the exact date of the eviction does not need to be given although the tenant will be given notice of the proceedings.
How do we apply for a writ?
The simplest way is to instruct an HCEO and they will apply for the writ on your behalf. You can instruct us using our online form or by calling us.
How long does a possession order last?
The possession order is normally valid for 12 months.
Can you still use the CC bailiff if the lead time is short, even if you have applied at the beginning to use a High Court sheriff?
Once the possession order has been transferred up for enforcement by an HCEO, it may then only be enforced by the HCEO.
To enforce a CCJ for money owed, do you first need to get a writ of fi fa? Is it a separate procedure to the possession process?
To enforce the CCJ by an HCEO, it will need to be transferred up to the High Court, then you will get a writ of control (the new name for a writ of fi fa).
If you are also applying for a possession order, you can combine both into a single combined writ, with just the one court fee for transfer up.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance