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How long does it take for bailiffs to evict tenants?

Article Posted - 19th August 2019

How long does it take for bailiffs to evict tenants?

A bailiff is involved in evicting tenants once a ‘warrant for possession' has been issued by the court. At this point, the tenants would have stayed beyond the date given in an order of possession by a judge. Once a warrant has been issued, the occupying tenants will be sent an eviction notice with a date on which they must leave the property.

The length of time that it takes for bailiffs to evict tenants depends on the court that oversees the enforcement. If the warrant is issued in the County Court, it will be executed by a bailiff that is an employee of the court who must first send a notice of their visit prior to attending. Recent funding challenges mean that many jurisdictions have reduced the number of bailiffs they employ. It's not unusual to wait four to six weeks for bailiffs to attend the property.

The three stages of eviction

To evict a tenant, you need to go through three stages:

  1. Notice to the tenant – giving a specified time period depending on the route you are using.
  2. If the tenant doesn't leave by the end of the notice period, you must apply to the county court (or the First-tier Tribunal in Scotland) for an order of possession (or an eviction order in Scotland). If the court grants the order, they give the tenant a notice period by when to leave the property.
  3. If the tenant doesn't leave by the end of this notice period, you can apply to the county court (or First-tier Tribunal in Scotland) for a warrant of possession. This means that the court will instruct bailiffs (sheriffs in Scotland) to evict the tenant.

Landlords can speed up the process by applying to the court for permission to have their issued warrant transferred from the County Court to the High Court. In doing so, the eviction is enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) who is contracted out by the court and paid upon results. The wait for an HCEO to attend is usually shorter than for a county court bailiff – however, not only is there a higher cost to the landlords, but HCEOs do not need to provide any notice to the tenant, which can make the process significantly more distressing.

What will happen on the day of eviction?

On the day of eviction, the bailiffs in England can attend the property at any time between 6am to 9pm. For Scotland, sheriff officer evictions are limited to 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday with restrictions in place for Sundays and bank holidays.

Tenants will be expected to surrender possession of the property and should have all their belongings packed on the day. The bailiff will only force entry to the property when a tenant is being obstructive and, in such circumstances, they have the discretion to use reasonable force to remove them.

Once inside, the bailiff will begin the process of securing the property which involves getting the locks changed and disconnecting the energy supply to the property. If a tenant still has belongings in the property, they will need to liaise with you in order to arrange a time to collect them.

An eviction can be aborted and postponed if the bailiffs determine that there are unaccompanied children on the premises or feel threatened by the occupants or animals. This will inevitably add delays to regaining possession and underlies the importance of completing a detailed risk assessment.

Will I, the landlord, need to be present for the eviction? 

The landlord or a nominated representative should be present on the day in order to give the bailiff the keys to access the property and receive the new keys once the property has been secured. A landlord has complete discretion on choosing a nominee, but they need to be 18 years or old, have a photographic ID and a letter of authority that gives them permission to act on behalf of the landlord. If you do choose to appoint a nominee, it is worth sending a copy of the letter of authority to the bailiff to avoid any delays on the day.

Evicting a tenant and repossessing a property can be a technical and stressful ordeal for most landlords with no prior experience. To help you, we provide a course on Understanding Possession which is great for both beginners and for those wishing to refresh their knowledge. Members can also speak to our Telephone Advice Line on 020 7840 8939 which is staffed with landlords that have experience of possession cases.


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