High Court enforcement for Local Authorities

Sheriffs Office Hi resHigh Court enforcement services can be useful for local authorities in several circumstances. The Sheriff's Office outlines the main circumstances when local authorities may need to use enforcement services and the procedures they will need to follow when they do.

These circumstances include:

• Recovery of property or land
• CRAR and forfeiture of lease for commercial property
• Recovery of debt, including sundry debt
• Post eviction security solutions
• Any issues with protesters, squatters and travellers
• Compulsory purchase orders
• Boats moored without permission
• Equine and other animal impoundment and removal
• Eviction of protesters, squatters

Commercial forfeiture
With many local authorities now owning commercial property including retail and office space and renting it out to businesses, there will be a need for commercial property forfeiture services if rent isn’t paid by a tenant occupying the property.

If you wish to end a commercial tenancy of commercial property by forfeiting the lease due to non-payment of rent, you must check the lease itself to establish how long rent must be overdue before forfeiture can take place. After this period has elapsed the landlord can re-enter the premises, most commonly undertaken by certificated enforcement agents who can follow the correct procedures and affix the appropriate notices to the property.

Commercial rent arrears recovery (CRAR)
If your commercial tenants are at least 7 days overdue with rent, the rent due can be recovered under CRAR – Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery – provided there is a lease in place, the property is solely for commercial use and notice is served. This can all be undertaken by utilizing the services of an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer.

You do not need a court order, but you must use a certificated enforcement agent.

CRAR may only be used to recover rent. If there are significant overdue items such as service charges and insurance, you may prefer to apply for a CCJ and transfer it to the High Court for enforcement under a writ of control. This may also be the preferred option if the tenant has moved out or absconded.

Residential possession
If you have tenants in local authority owned accommodation who have not left the premises after service of notice, you should, under Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984, be able to get the order for possession transferred to the High Court for enforcement under a writ of possession. This process is a lot quicker than awaiting the services of a county court bailiff, and if the property is at risk of damage or there is anti-social behaviour then it is best to act as quickly as possible to remove the tenants.

A writ of possession can usually be granted within 48 hours of the possession order being obtained, meaning High Court enforcement can be a swift way to recover residential property.

Removal of travellers
Several options are available for the removal of travellers; these options include a writ of possession, Common Law (Halsbury’s) or under the Town & Country Planning Act. No court order is required for the latter two.

Under Halsbury’s Law of England (Paragraph 1400, Volume 45, 4th Edition)
If a trespasser peaceably enters or is on land, the person who is in or entitled to possession may request him to leave, and if he refuses to leave, remove him from the land using no more force than is reasonably necessary. This right is not ousted if the person entitled to possession has succeeded in an action at law for possession but chooses not to sue out his writ” 

Although it does take a little more time, the advantage of using a writ is that it is an absolute remedy, giving the power to evict and gain vacant possession to land and/or property. The High Court Enforcement Officer can command the police to attend, has powers of arrest and resistance is a criminal offence.

If the eviction is to remove travellers from a local authority owned site, then the Human Rights Act must be considered. Article 8 of the ECHR protects an individual’s right to home and family life.

There might also be children at the site, in which case there need to be liaison with social services to ensure they are taken care of and have access to appropriate services.

Our Enforcement Agents are all trained in dealing with vulnerability, and are additionally able to carry out risk assessments for any job that may require one, whether that be due to vulnerable persons, hazardous sites or the need for specialist teams.

Recovery of debt
Once you have a judgment, we can transfer it without leave to the High Court for enforcement. There is a court fee of £66* to obtain a writ of control and this is recoverable from the debtor if the enforcement is successful, along with the judgment debt, court costs, interest at 8% and the enforcement agent’s fees. If enforcement is not possible, a compliance fee is payable.

We can enforce under a writ of control to recover any non-regulated money judgment, including sundry debt and residential rent arrears.

The writ of control authorises us to take control of the judgment debtor’s goods to satisfy the debt, although it rarely comes to this and we have excellent recovery rates.

If you also need to repossess a property, you can apply for an order for possession and add a claim for money (i.e. rent arrears) to the order, so you don’t need a separate CCJ, and the money part of the order is valid for six years, even after the property has been repossessed. We will enforce either part of the order or both.

Additional services
We have a large team to trace debtors and absconded tenants, searching a wide range of databases using the very latest tracing software.

We offer process serving nationwide. We provide process serving on a fixed fee basis and can serve within 4 days of instruction.

About The Sheriffs Office

We are a leading firm of authorised High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO)and Certificated Enforcement Agents covering all of England and Wales. It all started in the late 1970s as The Sheriffs Office in Northampton, dealing only with High Court writs within the county of Northamptonshire.

With the Courts Act in 2004, The Sheriffs Officers were renamed High Court Enforcement Officers and the restrictive geographical boundaries were dropped. Since then The Sheriffs Office has gone from strength to strength, growing year on year to become one of the top four HCEO firms with significant market share. Underpinning our success is our focus on client service and a comprehensive “end to end” range of specialist services for the recovery of debt, property and land.

To find out more visit https://thesheriffsoffice.com/

Or call us on 0333 001 5100

Sheriffs Office Hi res