Writs of possession to evict persons unknown
A High Court writ of possession instructs the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to remove the persons from the land or property in question.
A writ of possession may be against trespassers on land or in commercial property – squatters, activists or travellers for example – or tenants in residential or commercial property. This article focuses on the eviction of trespassers (persons unknown).
Where to start the claim
The vast majority of such possession claims will be started in the County Court or via Possession Claim Online.
Practice Direction 55A (1.3) states that claims started in the High Court must meet these criteria:
- there are complicated disputes of fact;
- there are points of law of general importance; or
- the claim is against trespassers and there is a substantial risk of public disturbance or of serious harm to persons or property which properly require immediate determination.
Transferring up a possession order
The writ to evict trespassers will be made against “persons unknown” and the County Court possession order can be transferred up to the High Court for enforcement without any additional permission required from the court.
The transfer up will be made using form N293A and follows the same process as transferring up a money judgement.
Once the writ is sealed, enforcement can commence.
At High Court Enforcement Group, we have a thorough and robust process of risk assessment and planning to ensure that every eviction is carried out correctly and effectively to safeguard all involved – the enforcement agents, the police (if attending), the trespassers and the general public.
Notice of eviction is not required. Whether it is given will depend on the circumstances of the case. If it is likely to lead the squatters to put up barricades and draft in reinforcements, then we do not give notice.
Our team, and the police if we have requested their support, meet the morning of the eviction – we normally enter the premises before the occupants are awake for the element of surprise – to go through the final details of the operational plan. Then the method of entry team gains access to the property.
We remove all the occupants, giving them time to pack their belongings, and then thoroughly search the site for anyone hiding away with the aim of letting the squatters back in after we have gone.
We secure the site and return the premises to the owner. As part of the operational planning, we will have recommended ongoing security measures to the client to prevent re-entry.
Writ of restitution
If the property owner is unfortunate enough to have squatters again within 12 months of the execution of the writ of possession, they can be removed under a writ of restitution. This is a writ in aid of another writ, which means that the client does not need to start a new possession claim.
The writ of restitution can be used regardless of whether the trespassers are the same as previously or a completely different set of people.
For the eviction of tenants, leave from the court is required to transfer up a County Court possession order to the High Court for enforcement by an HCEO. This will be applied for under Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984.
Commercial tenants may also be evicted under the common law remedy of forfeiture of lease, which will be far quicker than going to court.
Trespassers in residential property are removed by the Police since squatting in residential property became a criminal offence in 2012 under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
If you would like to know more about the eviction of residential tenants, please download our free eBook http://bit.ly/2fi6ecn