The Sheriff’s Office have published statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the first quarter of 2016 which are enough to cause many landlords to run screaming to the hills. No experienced landlord thinks that gaining possession of a property is a speedy process, but these statistics prove how slow the process is – or do they?
It appears from the MoJ figures that the average time from issuing a claim for possession to a County Court bailiff becoming involved and actually effecting the eviction is 45 weeks. The best part of a year! And let us not forget that where an average figure is used, there will be others that take longer, balanced by those that take less.
The Sheriff’s Office cannot be blamed for publicising this horror story; their business depends on landlords who fear such lengthy delays and who turn to the Sheriff’s Office to assist them to expedite the eviction at the earliest opportunity. 45 weeks delay will often equate to rent arrears for the whole period, plus any other arrears already outstanding. For landlords with mortgages on their buy to let properties, this could ruin them and result in the house being repossessed by the mortgage company. For landlords dependent on their rental income for their living expenses, this means hardship.
It appears that the long delays are due to the demand for Bailiff’s Warrants, as the average time between the landlord starting the Court paperwork and a Court order being awarded is 11 weeks. Again, that is an average so could be more or less. The landlord can decide, having been awarded possession, to go to the High Court, who can carry out an eviction under a writ of possession. The High Court Enforcement Officer can act far more quickly than the County Court Bailiff. They boast it will be within a week. They can also pursue the tenant for the outstanding debt. The down-side is, there is a charge. However, if without their in-put it can take 45 weeks of rent arrears, the charges are insignificant.
So should landlords ignore the County Court Bailiff’s and apply to the Sheriff’s Office to have the case transferred to the High Court? If the property is in an area where the Bailiff’s Office cannot give an eviction date until several months in the future, it makes sense for the landlord’s peace of mind and their business plan to go to the High Court. The Sheriff’s Office can provide the forms that are needed and help to ensure they are completed correctly.
The other option is to speak to the local Bailiff’s office, see how long the waiting period is and, if it seems reasonable, apply for a Bailiff’s Warrant without recourse to the Sheriff’s Office and the additional charges this would entail.
Only the landlord going through this can decide which is the best course for them. The Sheriff’s Office will want landlords to panic and use their services – and they are good services, in some circumstances. The important thing to remember that ‘some’ is not ‘all’ and eviction speedier than 45 weeks is still possible, in considerably less time and at less cost. But if you want the hassle and stress taken from you, if you want your property back fast and if your local Bailiff’s Office are booked up months in advance, then use the Sheriff’s Office – you might end up on television in ‘The Sheriffs are Coming’.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon