10:18 AM, 8th June 2023, About 6 months ago 11
Landlords wanting to evict non-paying tenants in arrears are facing extended delays and increased costs because the UK court system has a significant bailiff shortage, one organisation warns.
And the situation will worsen as a ‘landlord panic’ will spark more evictions as the abolishing of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions gets nearer.
The Ministry of Justice attributes cancelled and delayed bailiff appointments to safety concerns stemming from insufficient personal protection equipment for bailiffs.
But Landlord Action, the eviction and housing law specialists, says that the court system’s flaws have been evident for years.
It says that in the first three months of 2023, landlord repossessions in county courts spiked by 69% compared to the same period in 2022.
Now Landlord Action is urging County Court judges to consider transferring more eviction cases involving severe arrears to the High Court to resolve the mounting backlog.
The call comes as a growing number of County Court bailiff evictions are being suspended, leaving many landlords financially strained after waiting over six months to evict their tenants.
The founder of Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina, said: “This is just the beginning and without intervention the problem is going to get worse and worse.
“The historic lack of investment in the courts is now being compounded by changes in regulations and rising interest rates, sparking landlord panic to exit the rental market.”
He adds: “This is before Section 21 is abolished and more eviction cases end up in the courts.”
For landlords wanting to evict tenants, they must serve notice to the tenant and, except for Section 21 ‘no fault’ notices – which are set to be abolished as part of the Renters Reform Bill – wait for the relevant County Court to endorse the eviction, issue a warrant and schedule an eviction date.
Landlord Action says it is currently handling a case where their client had to wait 16 weeks from the date the possession order was granted (January 24th, 2023) until the bailiff appointment was confirmed (May 16th, 2023), with the eviction date set for August 2nd.
However, the landlord received a call from the bailiff this week stating that due to the personal protective equipment issue, rescheduling could take longer.
The landlord has already spent more than six months waiting, while the tenant’s outstanding debt amounts to £20,942 and continues to grow by £81.91 daily.
Landlord Action’s head of legal, Paul Sowerbutts, said: “We’ve offered our client the opportunity to re-apply to have his case transferred up to the High Court, but naturally there is a reluctance as this is yet another cost for the landlord.
“Whilst the High Court could help alleviate the delays, it won’t solve the crisis we are facing.
“Whilst bailiffs aren’t striking like other public sector workers, they are following work-to-rule action, and the Government must invest in the court system, including a review of bailiff salaries, if they are to improve recruitment and give landlords any confidence in the future of buy-to-let.”
Daren Simcox, the chief executive of High Court Writ Recovery, a private bailiff firm specialising in High Court writs and evictions, says the number of County Court bailiffs employed by courts to attend evictions has been waning as government policy has affected team sizes.
That also means some bailiffs now cover multiple courts resulting in unmanageable workloads.
He said: “The bailiffs simply don’t have the time to wait, so if there is a problem on the eviction day, they are moving on after 10-15 minutes leaving cases unresolved.
“The current wait time for possession in some cases is 37 weeks from claim to possession – that’s nine months and simply isn’t acceptable.
“Judges should be granting permission to transfer up to the High Court as a matter of course, given the current circumstances.”
He added: “Of course, whilst this route is usually much quicker, it is also more expensive for landlords, but less than one month rent, so the quicker possession can be obtained the landlords can take steps to re-let.
“Even High Court Enforcement Officers are in short supply after 40% left the industry during Covid and have not returned.”
Specialists in tenant eviction and debt collection. Regulated by The Law Society.