Landlord Action, eviction and housing law specialists, says the UK court system is on the brink of a severe bailiff crisis, as an increasing number of County Court bailiff evictions are being put on hold or cancelled, leaving landlords facing an even longer wait and higher costs to evict tenants.
Whilst the Ministry of Justice claims delays and cancellations are amid safety concerns due to a lack of Personal Protection Equipment for bailiffs, Landlord Action says cracks in the court system started years ago.
“This is just the beginning and without intervention the problem is going to get worse and worse” says Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action. “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.”
In Q1 2023, Landlord Action says landlord repossessions in the county courts rose by 69% in comparison to the same quarter in 2022.
“This is before Section 21 is abolished and more eviction cases end up in the courts” adds Paul.
Landlord Action is calling on Judges at County Courts to start granting leave to transfer more eviction cases with serious arrears to the High Court to share the burden of rising workload, as an increasing number of County Court bailiff evictions are being suspended. Some landlords have already waited more than six months to reach the point of eviction and are being financially crippled by the delays.
In a current case, which Landlord Action is acting on, the client waited 16 weeks from the date the possession order was granted (24th January 2023) to the date the bailiff appointment was confirmed (16th May 2023) with the eviction date set for 2nd August. However, the landlord has this week received a phone call from the bailiff saying, due to the PPE issue, it could take a while to be rescheduled. The landlord has already waited more than six months to reach this point, with his tenant currently owing £20,942, increasing at £81.91 daily.
Paul Sowerbutts, Head of Legal at Landlord Action says: “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.”
Landlords wishing to evict tenants must first serve a notice to their tenant and, unless it is a Section 21 ‘no fault’ notice (due to be abolished as part of the Renters Reform Bill) then wait for the relevant County Court to approve the eviction, issue a warrant, and book an eviction date.
Daren Simcox, CEO of High Court Writ Recovery, a private bailiff firm specialising in High Court writs and evictions across the UK, says the number of County Court bailiffs employed by courts to attend evictions has been waning as government policy has affected team sizes, meaning some bailiffs now cover multiple courts resulting in unmanageable workloads.
He says: “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.
“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 per cent left the industry during Covid and have not returned.”