A severe bailiff crisis is brewing in the UK, and South London landlords are particularly at risk.
The number of County Court bailiff evictions being put on hold or cancelled is increasing, due to a lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for bailiffs. This is compounded by the historic lack of investment in the courts, and rising interest rates, which are sparking landlord panic to exit the rental market.
In Q1 2023, 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.
Landlord Action, an eviction and housing law specialist, 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.
Some landlords have already waited more than six months to reach the point of eviction and are being financially crippled by the delays. In one case, a landlord waited 16 weeks from the date the possession order was granted to the date the bailiff appointment was confirmed. However, the bailiff then called to say that the eviction could be delayed due to the PPE issue.
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."
Daren Simcox, CEO of High Court Writ Recovery, a private bailiff firm, says that the number of County Court bailiffs employed by courts to attend evictions has been waning as government policy has affected team sizes. This means that some bailiffs now cover multiple courts, resulting in unmanageable workloads.
He adds: "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."
If you are a landlord in South London, you need to be aware of the bailiff crisis and take steps to protect yourself. Here are a few things you can do:
- Start the eviction process early. The sooner you start, the sooner you will be able to get the eviction completed.
- Be prepared to pay for a High Court eviction. This is usually more expensive than a County Court eviction, but it is often quicker.
- Work with a qualified eviction lawyer. They can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights.