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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Monday 17 August 2020

Bailiffs About to Awake

County Court bailiffs and High Court enforcement agents in England and Wales awake from their slumber next Monday 24 August 2020. They have been paralysed - thanks to coronavirus legislation and court directions - from seizing goods from debtors' homes where money is due under a court judgment and from evicting tenants and mortgage borrowers under court possession orders. Landlords and mortgage lenders have also been paralysed from pressing ahead with possession cases where no order has yet been obtained.  This paralysis end on 24 August 2020.

But various procedural hoops must first be gone through. Bailiffs and enforcement agents after seizure of goods are required to give the debtor at least seven days' prior notice of their intention to visit - unless, that is, the  court has waived or reduced the period of the notice on the basis that the debtor might otherwise take their goods to the other end of the world.

Where a possession order has already been made, the bailiff or enforcement agent is to give at least 14 days' proper written notice by way of a new form of the date and time on which they will be calling to evict. In some tenancy cases - it depends on the type of tenancy and the basis on which the possession oder was obtained - the tenant may be able to apply to the court for the bailiff or enforcement agent to be kept out by a suspension of their authority so long as the arrears are cleared at a specified rate on top of the rent being paid as and when it falls due. The likelihood is that the court will only have power to suspend where it is a social tenancy- council or housing association - and possession has not been order on a mandatory ground which prevents the court from granting longer than 42 days from the court order for the tenant to go. The court has much wider powers to suspend in mortgage possession cases.

And where a possession case was already started but then paralysed, the landlord or mortgage lender will have to send the court a reactivation notice so as to obtain a hearing date for the case. The court will generally give at least 21 days' notice of the hearing date.

In tenancy cases where the landlord has given notice to the tenant requiring possession, the period of any notice given or or after 26 March 2020 (and up to 30 September 2020)  was temporarily extended to three months (anything from 14 days or two months before). If short notice has been given the landlord should serve a fresh notice (after 30 September 2020 it can be for the 'old' period  which applied unless there is further legislation on the point).