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Good news for landlords recovering possession of residential premises

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05/10/2017

Partridge v Gupta provides helpful High Court authority for landlords recovering possession of residential premises. Karl Anders, Walker Morris’ Housing Management and Litigation Partner, explains.

Recovery of possession and High Court enforcement

Residential landlords have been increasingly resorting to the use of High Court enforcement officers to carry out evictions. The main reason being that, in practice, they act more quickly than County Court Bailiffs who, according to Ministry of Justice figures, take 6 weeks on average to enforce a possession warrant.

A “Writ of Possession” needs to be issued to use the High Court method of enforcement.

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 83.13 (2) and (8)), provide that the court’s permission is required to issue a Writ of Possession and that such permission will not be granted unless every person in possession of the land has received “such notice of the proceedings as appears to the court sufficient to enable the occupant to apply to the court for any relief to which the occupant may be entitled[1].

To date [2] there has been some uncertainty as to what constitutes sufficient “notice” for these purposes. However, in the recent case of Partridge v Gupta [3], the High Court has provided helpful guidance for landlords:

High Court guidance

What constitutes sufficient notice pursuant to CPR 83.13 will vary from case to case.

The court simply needs to be satisfied that any occupant knows enough about the possession proceedings to be able to apply for any relief to which he or she may be entitled.

The requisite “notice” does not have to be a formal notice in any particular form, nor even a letter or other communication containing any particular or prescribed information.

Neither service of the notice of application for permission for a Writ of Possession, nor a letter or other communication explaining that the application will be heard on a particular day/time, are required to comply with CPR 83.13 (but either would suffice).

Where the occupant has been fully involved in the possession proceedings, a reminder of the terms of the court order and a request that possession is given up under the order is likely to suffice. If a landlord is in any doubt, it should explain, in the same communication, that it will seek permission for the issue of a Writ if possession is not delivered up by the occupant, and that eviction will follow.

Where an occupant has not been fully involved in the possession proceedings, the landlord should write to them directly (if they are known by name), or should send a letter addressed to ‘the occupant(s)’ (if they are not), to inform of the terms of the possession order and request that possession be given up accordingly (if an order has been made at that stage); and to explain that permission for a Writ will be sought and that eviction will follow by that route if enforcement is necessary.

WM Comment

The comments by the High Court in Partridge v Gupta should help in terms of signposting appropriate steps to be taken to deal with the “notice” requirements under the court rules.

Landlords and their advisers should, of course, provide evidence of their compliance by either exhibiting a copy of the “notice” letter (and/or any other relevant communication) to their Writ of Possession application (this will apply where the application is intended to be made after the possession order has been obtained and also in those instances where permission to issue a Writ is intended to be sought at the initial possession hearing), so that the court can be satisfied that the landlord has complied with CPR 83.13.

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[1] Note that such permission is not required in trespass cases, however: (CPR 83.13 (3).
[2] In particular, since the 2015 High Court case of Secretary of State for Defence v Nicholas [2015] EWHC 4062 (ch)
[3] [2017] EWHC 2110 (QB)

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