Dale Farm Eviction: Legal lessons for landowners

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With the eviction at Dale Farm in the news, it would be timely to remind landowners of the legal position regarding trespassers entering land what steps can be taken to remove them.

Prevention

Obviously prevention is better than cure. It is advisable to secure land which may be vulnerable to attack now in order to prevent people from gaining access.
If anyone does move in to occupy the land, you should act quickly to have them removed, before eviction costs escalate and lost revenue from the land mounts.

Removal option one – Writ of Possession

A court order can be obtained under Part 55 Civil Procedure Rules. High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) can enforce the eviction using a Writ of Possession. HCEOs can act quickly to enforce, literally within hours of receiving the Writ, unlike county court bailiffs, who are increasingly stretched and may not be able to act for several weeks.

Once the HCEO has the Writ, you can determine when the enforcement will take place and whether to give notice to the occupants. There is no obligation to give notice to the occupants though in some situations it may be advantageous to do so. Police presence may also be required.

Closing the Writ

Once the site has been cleared the usual procedure is for the Writ to be signed, to indicate that possession of the land has been taken back. This then “closes” the Writ making any further enforcement impossible.

However given the sensitive nature of these evictions the Writ can remain unsigned for up to 36 hours. This means that should the site be re-occupied during this time, enforcement action can start again without the need to go back to court for a Writ of restitution, which will lead to further legal costs being incurred.

Removal option two – Common Law

A landowner or their agent can instruct a Certificated Bailiff to remove trespassers from land without a court order under Common Law. However, Common Law evictions can only be used by private landlords and the Land must be identified on a Land Registry Map or Local Authority Plan.

For further details contact property solicitor, Nick Arthur on 01271 372128 or by email at [email protected]

Article written by David Carter, Joint Managing Director at The Sheriffs Office