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Eviction ban by the back door! Top lawyer slams bailiffs’ move

A top property lawyer says a recent decision by bailiffs not to forcibly evict anyone in Tier 2 and Tier 3 is an eviction ban by the back door.

At the end of last week the government asked bailiffs not to enforce court possession orders in areas with the highest Coronavirus restrictions. So although evictions can still proceed through the courts, bailiffs will not enforce court orders in Tier 2 and 3 areas. 

Bailiff trade bodies agreed to the request made in a letter from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland who wrote: “We would request that your members should instruct the enforcement agents working under their authorisation not to enter properties that are classified as local alert level 2 (high) or 3 (very high)."


Now David Smith, partner at JMW Solicitors, has hit out at the move. 

“Naturally, evictions create hardship for those being evicted, probably more so right now. However, leaving tenants with huge arrears in place also creates hardship as the debt will follow them” he says. 

“The problem with the government’s approach is that it is almost certainly unlawful. It is not open to bailiffs or High Court Sheriffs to simply decline to enforce warrants and writs, even if the Lord Chancellor asks them to do so. 

“They have a duty to do this. Indeed, there is a power to complain to the County Court, in the County Courts Act, about losses resulting from Bailiffs not enforcing warrants.

“This approach flies in the face of the new structures created around the re-opening of the courts for possession. 

“Of course the government can prevent evictions if it wishes to. But it should do so lawfully by making regulations under the appropriate legislation and allowing Parliament to review them, not through backdoor letters to enforcement bodies. I have offered to seek judicial review on this on a 'no win, no fee' basis for affected landlords.”

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    We should all support David Smith offering a “no win, no fee” service to challenge this cosy arrangement. This government is one of the reasons I am selling up, IF I can get my tenant to leave at the end of the notice period.

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    Interesting article - I guess the longer somebody stays in the property the longer the local authority have to not deal with an urgent rehousing matter.
    I agree in as such the debt for the tenant (who is almost likely to be already in debt) is only going to increase the longer they are in the property - and it is therefore in their best interests to go ASAP - however going without the bailiff / sheriff will be considered as them making themselves voluntarily homeless for which they will get no support from the local authority - NOT a good situation the gov is putting tenants or landlords in.

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    • 30 October 2020 10:10 AM

    You can't really blame the tenants for behaving in the way they do.
    If I was one and was given NTQ I certainly would not vacate until evicted.
    Of course I would not wish to lose the possibility of the Council housing me by me being considered by the Council to have made myself intentionally homeless by complying with a LL NTQ.

    Tenants should NOT be penalised for complying with their contractual obligations.
    A valid LL NTQ is one of them.
    As it stands now the Council should have a housing duty at the expiry of a S21 if the tenant has no intention of vacating because of being labelled intentionally homeless.

    By the way if every LL gave £1 to JWM to fight this case that would greatly assist the cause.
    Every private LL so that would be £2.5 million to fight the case there being about 2.5 million private LL

    It would be in every LL interests for a JR win here.
    Where do I send my £1!!

  • Matthew Payne

    Its a great point, the government can't simply ask people when they choose, to ignore certain parts of statute when it suits them. Sets a dangerous precedent. The law should be followed 100% of the time otherwise anarchy will follow. If HMG doesnt like the law then change it. Will be interesting to see how this develops.

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    An intersting point that HMG may have forgotten in their haste to appease the feckless, is that judges sit as the Monarch's representative. Originally the court would have been presided over by the Monarch. All criminal cases are HM The Queen versus whoever. Even the government is Her Majesty's Government.

    Now we have a "here today, gone tomorrow" politician asking private firms to ignore court orders. I thought the firms had more cajones.

  • EverythingPRS

    The Council does have a duty at the end of a s21 notice.. where there is a ‘priority need’ then the council owes a ‘full duty’ and will provide temporary accommodation. If there is no priority need, the council has a duty to provide advice & guidance, and will provide financial assistance from the authority’s homeless prevention fund if necessary. The fund can be used to provide deposits & a months rent in advance for securing PRS accommodation.


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