London landlords face prolonged delays in the eviction process as bailiff operations are suspended indefinitely due to unspecified ‘health and safety reasons’.
This move is reportedly causing an immediate and significant impact on evictions, with one bailiff reporting an 80% decrease in their workload.
The understanding is that the safety concerns arise from the need for bailiffs to be accompanied by additional personnel while attending properties, to ensure their safety. This requirement, however, has seemingly brought the system to a standstill.
One of the affected bailiff companies has stated that it will be operating a ‘skeleton’ service until normal operations can resume. Meanwhile, landlords in need of eviction services may have to resort to the more costly route of High Court bailiffs.
London Tenant evictions
A number of magistrates’ courts in London serve landlords seeking to evict tenants, one of the largest being the Central London Court. It recently sent an email warning that bailiff appointments have been suspended for the ‘foreseeable future’.
Landlords who wish to evict tenants via the courts through a Section 8 notice must first establish the ‘grounds for eviction’ before a magistrate. Once this has been proven, a possession order is granted, followed by the issuance of a warrant specifying a date when a bailiff can repossess the property.
This is a route that all landlords will have to take soon, once Section 21 is abolished.
Eviction cases being postponed
Website Landlord Action reports that one of its eviction cases scheduled for yesterday was postponed indefinitely.
Paul Sowerbutts of Landlord Action expressed the frustration of his clients, saying, “Our clients, whilst sympathetic to the bailiffs’ concerns, have already been waiting in some cases many, many months for an appointment.” He warned that without a more affordable alternative to taking the case to the High Court, this development will significantly exacerbate the difficulties facing landlords.
Unpaid rent arrears has risen sharply over the past few years largely due to covid. In line with that, London tenant evictions has risen in line with the sharp rise.
The announcement has been made by the Civil and Family Court in Barnet, one of the major hubs handling evictions in North London.
It says, as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) press office has confirmed to LandlordZONE in recent days, that the delays are being caused by some court-appointed and paid bailiffs pulling out of ‘high risk’ evictions where they face possible injury to life and limb.
In these cases, the MoJ is struggling to provide personal protection equipment such as stab vests and other body armour and these evictions are therefore being stopped or delayed.
Courts affected include Central London, Croydon, Brentford and Wandsworth, although Sim Sekhon, LegalforLandlords MD, believes there may well be others.
“These are the cases we know about because our clients are directly affected. We can’t overstate the misery this is causing,” he explained.
According to Sekhon, there are currently 80 cases awaiting bailiff appointments – the majority in London – with four cases where existing bailiff appointments have been cancelled.
The only real alternative for landlords seeking possession of a property at the moment is to apply to the High Court, according to Sekhon. But doing so is a lot more costly and there are no guarantees that the judge will appoint a High Court Enforcement Officer.
“It’s a terrible situation,” he added. It’s causing real problems and we have no idea how long it may persist. Once again, landlords’ needs are being ignored.”