HCEO rights of entry during an evictionMake Text Bigger
We were asked recently whether High Court Enforcement Agents (HCEOs) were permitted to force entry when conducting an eviction from residential premises.
In the case of enforcing a writ of control (a writ for money) against a debtor in residential premises, the enforcement agent is not permitted to force entry.
No right to remain
However, the situation is quite different in the case of an eviction. The order and writ of possession authorise the HCEO to return the property to the rightful owner (i.e. the landlord or their agent), as the occupant (tenant or squatter) does not now have the right to remain there.
The order and writ may be made either against identified occupants, for example tenants who have been served the appropriate notices but not left the premises, or it may be against “persons unknown” in the case of squatters, activists and travelers in commercial premises (squatting in residential premises was made a criminal offence in 2012).
Where the order for possession is made against “person unknown” this may be transferred to the High Court for enforcement by an HCEO under a writ of possession without the need for court permission. Court permission is also not required for a mortgage repossession.
Where the occupant is identified, then court permission is required – this is a bizarre anomaly that we would like to see removed by the Ministry of Justice. Permission to transfer up can be applied for under Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984.
Once issued, the writ of possession is one of immediate execution. In practice, that normally means as soon as is practical, but in some cases we do execute the writ very promptly, as we will have already undertaken all our planning, police co-ordination and health and safety checks in advance.
The HCEO does not have to give notice of the eviction, although in some instances it is good practice to do so. The exception to this tends to be those cases where activists and protesters are involved, as giving notice could give rise to barricades and calls for additional “troops” to be brought in to resist the eviction.
Use of force
The HCEO and his team are permitted to use force to gain access to the property. This may include specialist method of entry teams to gain access via a roof, via other buildings, or by water, as well as the use of locksmiths and even builders, if substantial barricades have been put in place.
During the eviction, the HCEO and his team of enforcement agents may use “reasonable” force to remove the occupants. “Reasonable” will be determined by the circumstances of the case and the occupants themselves. Health and safety of all is important and you can read more about this aspect of evictions in our earlier article. http://www.property118.com/health-safety-planning-evictions/75635/
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