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The Role of the Bailiffs in Property Repossessions

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Bailiffs Repossession County Court

If a landlord or mortgage company obtains a possession order from the county court they will usually have to wait for several weeks before they are entitled to take physical possession of the property. Unless the occupants of the property leave it voluntarily, county court bailiffs will almost certainly be instructed to visit the property and formally take possession of it.

County court bailiffs are directly employed by the courts and enforce county court judgments and possession orders.

Warrant of Possession

Once a possession order is enforceable the landlord or mortgage company will ask the court bailiff to taken possession of the property. To do this they must issue a warrant of possession. A warrant which is validly obtained allows the court bailiff to take physical possession of a property.

If there is any reason to believe that an occupant may be obstructive or violent the bailiff may request that the police attend the eviction. Alternatively, in some circumstances, representatives from the RSPCA or the social services could also be asked to attend an eviction if their assistance may be needed.

Pre-Repossession Visit by the Bailiffs

Once a warrant has been issued the court bailiffs will usually visit the property to hand-deliver the notice of eviction. Hand-delivering the notice serves two purposes. Firstly, the bailiffs will be more certain that the occupants of the property will receive the notice of eviction if it is hand-delivered than if it is posted. Secondly, the visit gives the bailiffs an opportunity to confirm that they have the correct address and to check if there is likely to be any difficulty accessing the property when they come to repossess it.

The notice of eviction will usually be delivered a couple of weeks prior to the day on which possession is scheduled to take place. However, there is currently no set notice period. This notice will give the address of the property to be repossessed as well as the date and time when the repossession process is scheduled to start.

Last Minute Applications to Stop Repossession

It is not uncommon, especially in repossessions based on mortgage arrears, for an occupant of the property to make a last minute application to stop the eviction going ahead. This means that there may be a court hearing on the same day – and even at the same time – as is scheduled for the repossession. When this happens the bailiff will usually liaise with the court staff and the mortgage company or landlord until a judge has dealt with the application. If the court hearing goes on after the time when the eviction is due to take place the bailiff may have to reschedule it, in any event, to the next available slot in their diary.

Repossession by County Court Bailiffs

Unlike bailiffs who come to seize goods, bailiffs attending to repossess a property are allowed to break into it if necessary. However, they will generally first seek to be let in by any occupants. County court bailiffs are also authorised to use reasonable force to remove any occupants who refuse to leave.

Bailiffs may decide not to go through with a scheduled eviction for a number of reasons. For example: they feel threatened by the occupants or any animals on the property; there are unaccompanied children in the property; the occupant is ill or vulnerable; or, the property is unsafe or inaccessible. However, an eviction cancelled for any of these reasons will only be postponed until any necessary measures are put in place.

If the bailiffs successfully enter the property they will then begin the process of physically repossessing it. In addition to changing the locks the bailiffs will also usually disconnect the utilities and secure the property. The fees charged by the bailiffs for repossessing a property are added to the debt owed. Any goods or belongings left in the property will be locked in when the property is secured. The lender or landlord should be contacted directly to arrange a time when these goods can be collected. Anything left in the property for longer than a couple of weeks is likely to be disposed of or sold.

Making a Complaint About a County Court Bailiff

Complaints about the behaviour of a county court bailiff should, in the first instance, be made in writing to the relevant county court providing the details of the property and the number of the warrant of possession.

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Very informative page. I recently found myself having to evict a non paying tenant after 23 years letting properties out without any issues. I also used Vicks Enforcement who were helpful and and after waiting a few weeks for permission from the court they finally evicted the tenants. More information needs to be put out to help landlords deal with tenant issues!
LittleMrsL - 13-Oct-17 @ 2:50 AM
Malta M - Your Question:
I obtained a section 8 repossession order and my tenant left on 14th June without handing back the keys.The house is a complete mess with a huge amount of rubbish and old broken toys beds television etc strew through out, let alone all the muck and rubbish in plastic bags and is totally uninhabitable. I know where he now lives but am reluctant to approach him as I don't want to be on the end of a harassment charge. As so much time has elapsed and clearly he doesn't want any of his rubbish can I go in and clear the place?

Our Response:
Send him a letter advising him that as it's now 3 months since he vacated the premises, you are disposing of the contents of the house.
HousingRepossessions - 12-Sep-17 @ 12:37 PM
I obtained a section 8 repossession order and my tenant lefton 14th June without handing back the keys.The house is a complete mess with a huge amount of rubbish and old broken toys beds television etc strew through out, let alone all the muck and rubbish in plastic bags and is totally uninhabitable. I know where he now lives but am reluctant to approach him as I don't want to be on the end of a harassment charge. As so much time has elapsed and clearly he doesn't want any of his rubbish can I go in and clear the place?
Malta M - 11-Sep-17 @ 10:52 AM
Archie - Your Question:
I obtained a possession order from the county court in April but the tenant refused to move out of my property. I therefore applied for court bailiffs to take possession of the property as required by the law but it has taken me well over 5 months still waiting for the bailiffs to respond to my request. The tenant have not paid his rent for nearly 10 months now.please what is the way forward as thiw costing me so much.

Our Response:
You could try contacting another bailiff firm? There's directory here Find a Bailiff
HousingRepossessions - 8-Sep-17 @ 10:27 AM
I obtained a possession order from the county court in April but the tenant refused to move out of my property. I therefore applied forcourt bailiffs to take possession of the property as required by the law but it has taken me well over 5 months still waiting for the bailiffs to respond to my request. The tenant have not paid his rent for nearly 10 months now.please what is the way forward as thiw costing me so much.
Archie - 7-Sep-17 @ 5:57 AM
peter - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a leasehold flat 8 years ago. The freeholder is a Housing Association. My solicitor at the time had huge difficulty with the Association, which was only resolved when I found out the name of the Director of Finance and rang him to complain. My title is registered. I have never been asked for Service Charge or ground rent. I rent out the flat. My tenants have now received a letter from the Housing Association addressed to the previous owner seeking possession under Section 8 of a property let on an Assured Tenancy on ground 8 of Schedule 2. Would this all be thrown out by the Court ? I have spoken to various people in the HA issues, such as parking permits, etc, and they have my address which is also on my title document. Presumably all I can do is write to them again!

Our Response:
Yes a court would probably reject this. Write to them including a copy of your registered title and request that they update their records. To make sure they actually do this, you might also want to suggest to them that you may take further action because they are causing distress to you/your tenants by sending this type of correspondence.
HousingRepossessions - 29-Jun-17 @ 11:10 AM
Hi, I bought a leasehold flat 8 years ago. The freeholder is a Housing Association. My solicitor at the time had huge difficulty with the Association, which was only resolved when I found out the name of the Director of Finance and rang him to complain. My title is registered. I have never been asked for Service Charge or ground rent. I rent out the flat. My tenants have now received a letter from the Housing Association addressed to the previous owner seeking possession under Section 8 of a property let on an Assured Tenancy onground 8 of Schedule 2.Would this all be thrown out by the Court ? I have spoken to various people in the HA issues, such as parking permits, etc, and they have my address which is also on my title document. Presumably all i can do is write to them again!
peter - 27-Jun-17 @ 9:23 PM
Jonesy - Your Question:
Today I have recieved a letter from my mortgage providers solicitors saying they have requested an appointment with the ballif for execution of a warrant for possession? What does this mean? How long have I got before eviction? How do I apply to a court for time to pay? Me and my partner both work full time and have only fell behind due to major issues with the house, damp rot etc making the house un liveable so had to pay to fix the issues ahead of paying the mortgage, we can now re start paying but do not have the 7,000 in one lump

Our Response:
This means your mortgage provider has already been to court to apply for a possession order. They must previously have been in touch to discuss the arrears with you (or you should have been in touch with them anyway if you hadn't been paying). You need to act quickly and try to ask the court to stop/delay the repossession - it will then be up to the judge to decide whether to agree to this. You will need to be able to explain how you intend to pay off the arrears quickly. Ask Citizens Advice for help with applying for an urgent court order, but only do this if you have the means to pay effectively.
HousingRepossessions - 8-May-17 @ 11:05 AM
Today i have recieved a letter from my mortgage providers solicitors saying they have requested an appointment with the ballif for execution of a warrant for possession? What does this mean? How long have i got before eviction? How do i apply to a court for time to pay? Me and my partner both work full time and have only fell behind due to major issues with the house, damp rot etc making the house un liveable so had to pay to fix the issues ahead of paying the mortgage, we can now re start paying but do not have the 7,000 in one lump
Jonesy - 6-May-17 @ 10:19 AM
Peggy - Your Question:
Hello, I have general enquiry.(as I have high curiosity on learn to live within frame of English Law)If the house in repossession has short hold tenants (for 38 days), but tenants paid the (without knowing, bankrupted) landlord all rents(bank transfer as agreed in written agreement prior to bailiff visit which the tenants never known before about their court orders) can bailiff remove tenants??The tenants paid full for their stays on time as agreed well before/checking time but been treated like trashes by a group of rude people who said the payments+agreements that the tenants have (showed them) are between tenants and landlord and not their problem.ps the tenants were told by landlord up to one day before bailiff visit was just saying the tenants will be ok for the rented period even the house was sold and completed the transaction last week , the seller inc both solicitors agreed to wait until the tenants check out at the end of already paid rented period.My questions here are:>>can sudden visit by bailiffs remove those tenants who paid full to landlord (with bankruptcy + repossession)>>what would be the best advice for the tenants as when tenants asked citizen advice buero they said they should get notice in 2 weeks (to their name) and no one should remove the tenants who paid the landlord (ps citizen advice buero suggested also to call police if hard situations happen but police said call the landlord when asking help on 999- no one there appeared) >>in order to avoid such situation again what would be the best advice for tenants in uk (instead of advices such as a full tenancy agreement should be in place or could get stuffs owed by tenants again by calling a certain number later dates if tenants could proof purchase receipts )

Our Response:
In general if a landlord's property is repossessed by their mortgage lender, then the tenants are evicted. You can apply to delay the eviction by two months, if you do so before the possession order is made (but obviously in your case it has already taken place). If a possession order has taken place - when you get the notice of execution of the possession orderfrom the lender, you can ask the lender to delay repossession for up to two months. If the lender refuses or does not reply to your request, you can apply to the court - you hav to do this within 14 days of the notice of execution being served though.
HousingRepossessions - 10-Apr-17 @ 10:26 AM
Hello, I have general enquiry.(as I have high curiosity on learn to live within frame of English Law) If the house in repossession has short hold tenants (for 38 days), but tenants paid the (without knowing, bankrupted) landlord all rents(bank transfer as agreed in written agreement prior to bailiff visit which the tenants never known before about their court orders) can bailiff remove tenants?? The tenants paid full for their stays on time as agreed well before/checking time but been treated like trashes by a group of rude people who said the payments+agreements that the tenants have (showed them) are between tenants and landlord and not their problem. ps the tenants were told by landlord up to one day before bailiff visit was just saying the tenants will be ok for the rented period even the house was sold and completed the transaction last week , the seller inc both solicitors agreed to wait until the tenants check out at the end of already paid rented period. My questions here are: >>can sudden visit by bailiffs remove those tenants who paid full to landlord (with bankruptcy + repossession) >>what would be the best advice for the tenants as when tenants asked citizen advice buero they said they should get notice in 2 weeks (to their name) and no one should remove the tenants who paid the landlord (ps citizen advice buero suggested also to call police if hard situations happen but police said call the landlord when asking help on 999- no one there appeared) >>in order to avoid such situation again what would be the best advice for tenants in uk (instead of advices such as a full tenancy agreement should be in place or could get stuffs owed by tenants again by calling a certain number later dates if tenants could proof purchase receipts )
Peggy - 7-Apr-17 @ 3:04 AM
David - Your Question:
Hello, general question - I have arrears on my first and second mortgage and I should be able to clear those arrears prior to the eviction date (a bailiff visit has been granted for the coming weeks).I just wanted to make sure that the law allows me to clear these arrears prior to the bailiffs arrival? (so I won't be told that it is too late and the repossession continues).Thank you for your time.

Our Response:
At this stage you need to ask the court to stop the repossession.Apply to the court for an urgent court hearingbut do this as soon as possible, if you can, get a solicitor to help you with this.
HousingRepossessions - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:36 AM
Hello, general question - I have arrears on my first and second mortgage and I should be able to clear those arrears prior to the eviction date (a bailiff visit has been granted for the coming weeks). I just wanted to make sure that the law allows me to clear these arrears prior to the bailiffs arrival? (so I won't be told that it is too late and the repossession continues). Thank you for your time.
David - 25-Mar-17 @ 12:28 PM
A week ago yesterday my daughter and grandaughter who was living with her partner opened the door to the apartment to find a Bailiff and Landladies rep from the Estate Agents serving a notice of eviction. Her partner was also there but had not informed her this was taking place. I received a distressed call from her to assist with the removal of her possessions but we were unable to remove all items. The Agent rep said she would try to get access for her over the next few days only to find on chasing her that the Landlady has declined her access. This means that some of my daughters and grandaughters possessions are still in the apartment. Is the Landlady within her rights to do this especially given the circumstances placed on her by her partner?
PhilC - 27-Jan-17 @ 10:53 AM
Bronwen - Your Question:
We have previously been granted a possession under a Section 21. Unfortunately the tenant decided to remain in the property and we had to apply through the court for an eviction order to be issued for balifs to remove the tenant. This was due to happen at 11am on Wednesday. The tenant appealed this and the appeal was heard in court at 10.30am on the same day. Fortunately, the court ruled that the eviction could go ahead and contacted the balifs to proceed. Clearly the tenant thought that this would not be the case and had removed none of their goods from the property - goods which include a VERY LARGE spider, 4 wide screen plasma TVs and a deep freezer - so quite a lot of items. The balifs have provided the tenants with our contact number and advised they have 7 days to contact to collect their goods. If the tenant makes no contact whatsoever, what are to do with their things? Are we able to dispose of them and if so when? I have heard that if they owe no rent (which is not the case) I can dispose of their goods in 21 days, if they owe arrears (although this is NOT the reason we requested repossession under the section 21) which they do I have also read that I am able to remove but MUST store for 3 months? Can anyone help with advice on what the law actually is in this instance???

Our Response:
In general a landlord cannot by law withhold another’s personal belongings in lieu of any monies owed.
f you intend to dispose of the goods then you are obliged by law to give a reasonable period of notice before selling them, commonly 21 days. If the tenant owes money to the landlord BEFORE service of the notification then the landlord is obliged under the law to keep the property for at least 3 months before selling them.
The landlord is entitled to sell the goods and keep any reasonable costs that were incurred through storage, removal and sale. The law expects the landlord to obtain the best price they can and then return the amount beyond the landlords costs to the tenant. See the Landlord Law Blog for more information.
HousingRepossessions - 30-Sep-16 @ 2:49 PM
We have previously been granted a possession under a Section 21. Unfortunately the tenant decided to remain in the property and we had to apply through the court for an eviction order to be issued for balifs to remove the tenant. This was due to happen at 11am on Wednesday. The tenant appealed this and the appeal was heard in court at 10.30am on the same day. Fortunately, the court ruled that the eviction could go ahead and contacted the balifs to proceed. Clearly the tenant thought that this would not be the case and had removed none of their goods from the property - goods which include a VERY LARGE spider, 4 wide screen plasma TVs and a deep freezer - so quite a lot of items. The balifs have provided the tenants with our contact number and advised they have 7 days to contact to collect their goods. If the tenant makes no contact whatsoever, what are to do with their things? Are we able to dispose of them and if so when? I have heard that if they owe no rent (which is not the case) I can dispose of their goods in 21 days, if they owe arrears (although this is NOT the reason we requested repossession under the section 21) which they do I have also read that I am able to remove but MUST store for 3 months? Can anyone help with advice on what the law actually is in this instance???
Bronwen - 30-Sep-16 @ 11:13 AM
Katie - Your Question:
The council turned up without notice to evict me from my property. I had no warning of this. My parents were in the property and one had a pacemaker. The council drilled the front door lock and the back door lock too. I already had an arrangement plan to pay back my rent arrears but a person who works for the housing department applied for the possession order. I had to borrow £2900 so that I did not lose the house I only needed to pay £500 and my arrears would have been cleared. This has been going on for over a year and it's been the same person from the council constantly going for eviction even though I've had payment plan in place This b as caused great distress to me and really scared my mum At the time of them turning up unannounced I was at work. I don't who to complain to or what to do.

Our Response:
A possession order would usually be served on you in person (you may even be expected to sign to say you have received it). Check with Citizen's Advice or a solicitor to make sure the council has followed the correct procedure.
HousingRepossessions - 26-Sep-16 @ 2:22 PM
The council turned up without notice to evict me from my property.I had no warning of this.My parents were in the property and one had a pacemaker.The council drilled the front door lock and the back door lock too. I already had an arrangement plan to pay back my rent arrears but a person who works for the housing department applied for the possession order.I had to borrow £2900 so that I did not lose the house I only needed to pay £500 and my arrears would have been cleared. This has been going on for over a year and it's been the same person from the council constantly going for eviction even though I've had payment plan in place This b as caused great distress to me and really scared my mum At the time of them turning up unannounced I was at work. I don't who to complain to or what to do.
Katie - 24-Sep-16 @ 9:16 PM
I have a been granted a possession order by the County Court for 7 September. Knowing teh tenant he probably won't open the door to let the baliff in. Can I use my keys to open the door for them or do they have to use force to gain access? If not what steps should I take next? Thanks
abbas - 25-Aug-16 @ 10:15 AM
tommy - Your Question:
I have today been granted a possession order by the County Court and thought this to be the end of the matter,fully intent on changing the locks etc this afternoon knowing full well the tenant has left the premises several weeks ago.However I was advised by my solicitor that I now need a bailiff to posses the property because the tenant hasnot returned the keys to me and hasnot told me she has left.I find this hard to understand because possession has been awarded to me.Any advice/comments would be appreciated.

Our Response:
It depends on a variety of issues and as we don't have all the details we can't give a full answer. Usually if the tenant has already left voluntarily you can simply repossess the property and/or change the locks.Let Link, has a good guide here
HousingRepossessions - 3-Feb-16 @ 2:26 PM
I have today been granted a possession order by the County Court and thought this to be the end of the matter,fully intent on changing the locks etc this afternoon knowing full well the tenant has left the premises several weeks ago.However I was advised by my solicitor that I now need a bailiff to posses the property because the tenant hasnot returned the keys to me and hasnot told me she has left.I find this hard to understand because possession has been awarded to me.Any advice/comments would be appreciated.
tommy - 2-Feb-16 @ 11:34 PM
Great read. I recently went through the process of evicting a tenant and was told the court bailiffs could not do it for 8 week! My friend told me to go via the high court sheriff route which I did and they did it in just under 2 weeks! I would advice any fellow landlord to use this route, slightly more expensive but worth the extra money. Shop around though as some companies was charging silly fees. I used v woodcock/ vicks enforcement who charged me a set fee. Has anyone else used this before?
Anna - 5-Jul-15 @ 5:47 PM
I'm in the process in getting rid of a problem tenant. I've got judgement and the warrant of possession. The county court bailiff will be attending to get the property back to me. It's good to read that they can force entry if need be. This guide is very useful and thank you for writing this piece. I would like to add that perhaps it would be useful to add "This is correct at today 12-June-2015". Then we know it's up to date.
Chris - 13-Jun-15 @ 12:14 AM
Quick question, my best friend is due to have her home reposessed due to mortgage arrears, it went to court in April and she was told she would get a letter within the next 45 days stating when she had to leave, she's received nothing yet.How long does reposession take?
Kelly - 24-Jun-14 @ 12:02 PM
very interesting and clear understanding of specific issues like the clear format
Maggie - 12-Aug-13 @ 4:36 PM
The Baliff role was very interesting to read as i am currently using the baliff service. It made clear to me what the process was.
viola - 5-Apr-12 @ 4:45 PM
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