Eviction of travellers
Amidst the UK’s housing crisis there is also a shortage of authorised sites for travellers to set up on. This shortage of authorised sites has led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of travellers setting up on unauthorised encampments such as car parks and playing fields.
Government statistics show that there has been a 17% rise in the number of caravans on unauthorised plots and land not owned by travellers from 2016-2017. While there was only a 2% increase in socially rented plots between 2010 and 2017.
Options for eviction of travellers
Land owners and local authorities have two options when looking to regain possession of land and evict travellers. The first option is to evict them using common law. Under common law land owners are within their rights to evict travellers from their land and are permitted to use reasonable force if required. Evictions under common law are usually undertaken by enforcement agents.
The enforcement agents will serve a notice that gives the travellers 24hrs to vacate the site. If after the 24-hour period the site is not vacated then the enforcement agents will return with the equipment, and potentially police if necessary, to remove any travellers who still remain.
There are several benefits to using common law eviction. The biggest benefit is the speed at which the eviction can be carried out. In many cases an eviction under common law can be carried out within 24 hours, meaning there is less time for damage to be caused to the land or property and reduce the opportunity for fly tipping.
The other option for land owners and local authorities is to obtain a writ of possession. The first step to evicting under a writ of possession is to obtain an order of possession. When dealing with travellers and squatters the order of possession is made against ‘’persons unknown’’.
Once the order for possession has been awarded the claimant can then transfer it up to the High Court to then be enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
The biggest benefit to using a writ of possessions and transferring it up to the High Court is that notice does not have to be given, the HCEO will decide whether to do so depending on the situation. This is particularly beneficial when dealing with travellers as the element of surprise takes away any opportunity to damage property, steal from the property, or for when resistance to the eviction is expected.
Long term measures for prevention
Preventing these kinds of situations from happening in the first place is always preferable to dealing with an eviction and the potential time and money involved and so there are a number of things that land owners and local authorities can do to prevent theses situations from arising.
Putting fences and gates around land and having large bollards at entrances are a great way of stopping unauthorised persons from entering land. As well as this, embankments, earth bunds and trenches are also a great way of securing an area of land from unwanted visitors.