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With the recent significant increase in the use of High Court enforcement officers evicting residential tenants it has become clear that not all of these evictions have been conducted legally. The potential cost implications for a landlord for incorrectly evicting a tenant can be huge as the claims for damages could not only come from the tenant themselves, but also from the Council that had to put them into emergency accommodation.
In the last 18 months the High Court enforcement sector has been flooded with small ‘franchise’ bailiff firms operating under the authority of a single authorised High Court Enforcement Officer.
It has come to light that some of these firms understanding of the law is lacking to say the least, offering guaranteed 7 day evictions without the need for transferring the County Court order for possession to the High Court for enforcement.
It is understandable that every landlord wants possession of their property without the lengthy delays regularly quoted by the County Court Bailiffs but the potential claim for damages off the back of an illegal eviction could literally be huge!
At present, a High Court enforcement officer can ONLY use a standard writ of possession to evict trespassers. This means squatters and NOT a tenant that remains in a property after a possession date.
Accordingly, to use a High Court enforcement officer to conduct and eviction of a residential tenant they MUST obtain leave from the County Court under Section 42 of the County Court Act 1984. Without this any writ of possession enforced in invalid and any action taken under it illegal.
If so, the tenant may have a claim for considerable damages from the landlord, the company that evicted them and the authorised HCEO personally.
If you have used the services of one of these franchise HCEO firms it would be prudent to now demand to see the order allowing the HCEO to undertake the eviction. Be advised this is not the writ of possession and is a separate standard court order. If they cannot produce this, you could be looking at a claim for damages landing on your doormat any day soon.
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