During the first Covid-19 lockdown, we were in unknown territory, and rules had to be worked out on the go. This time, we’re more used to being locked down, and regulations (many of which are much the same as for tiers 2 and 3) have been put quickly in place. And this includes the regulations for enforcement visits for writs of control, writs of possession and serving eviction orders.
The Rules for Writs of Control
The guidance issued by the Lord Chancellor at the start of the current lockdown allows enforcement visits for writs of control to carry on in some cases, provided they can be done in a Covid-secure way. A writ of control instructs a High Court Enforcement Officer to take possession of a sufficient quantity of the debtor’s possessions to raise in auction the amount specified in the judgement.
In practice, however, this will often not be possible, since the Enforcement Officers aren’t allowed to enter residential premises during the lockdown. This seems to suggest that, in these cases, enforcement will only be possible with the debtor’s full cooperation — which often won’t be happening.
On the other hand, this regulation doesn’t apply to commercial properties. As long as it can be done in a safe way, the officers will be able to enter and execute the writ of control.
The Rules for Writs of Possession
The rules against entering domestic properties also apply to visits to enforce a writ of possession or to serve an eviction order. This is partly on health grounds, but it also serves effectively as a period of grace for tenants who may be struggling in the lockdown.
However, the rules don’t apply in all cases. The two exceptions which are most likely to affect landlords are evictions for nuisance or antisocial behaviour and evictions for extreme rent arrears that go back before the first lockdown.
In these cases, entry may be effected, as well as in the cases of illegal trespass and squatting, fraud or deception, domestic violence and unoccupied properties following a death.
What Can You Do?
Even in cases where Enforcement Officers can’t currently make a visit, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. The courts will still be open, if busy, and you can apply for a judgement ready for when it’s able to be enforced.
If you’re trying to recover a serious debt or recover possession of a property, give me a call for a chat about what your options are and how I can help you.