How long does it take to get bailiffs to evict tenants?

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Summary:

This guide will cover everything you need to know about the eviction process, from how long it takes to get bailiffs to evict tenants to what you can expect on the eviction date.

If you’re behind on your rent and are facing eviction, you may be curious about how long the process usually takes from start to finish.

However, there are various laws bailiffs must abide by when evicting tenants and despite what you might have seen in movies or on television, they can’t simply show up and ask you to leave with no warning.

What types of eviction are there in the UK?

There are two main types of eviction in the UK, each with its own legal process that is suited to different situations. We’ve outlined each eviction type in more detail below:

Section 21

The most common type of eviction in the UK is called a ‘Section 21’ eviction. It can be used after a fixed-term tenancy with a written contract ends or during a tenancy with no fixed end date (called a periodic tenancy).

However, a Section 21 eviction can’t be used in certain situations (e.g. if it’s been less than four months since the tenancy started or if the deposit was not deposited in a deposit protection scheme).

Put simply, a Section 21 eviction should be used when there has not been a breach of a contract or the tenancy agreement has expired. It can be used on its own or alongside a Section 8 eviction if necessary.

Section 8

The other type of eviction in the UK is called a ‘Section 8’ eviction. It can be used when a tenant legally breaks any part of a rental agreement or if the landlord wants to change the use of the property.

Some of the situations in which a Section 8 eviction might be used include the tenant withholding rent, engaging in anti-social behaviour in the property, or using the property for criminal activity. The landlord might also want to move into the property or use it as a student or holiday let.

Most landlords prefer to use the Section 21 eviction process as opposed to the Section 8 eviction process as it doesn’t require them to provide a legal reason for evicting the tenant.

How does the eviction process work?

The eviction process differs depending on whether a Section 21 or Section 8 eviction is issued. We’ve summarised the steps involved below:

Eviction notice

The first step in the eviction process is receiving an eviction notice. This is known as a ‘notice seeking possession’ and must clearly specify the reasons for the eviction (e.g. unpaid rent or anti-social behaviour).

If a Section 21 notice is served, the tenant will have at least two months’ notice to leave the property. If a Section 8 eviction is issued, the tenant will usually have a minimum of two weeks to leave the property.

Remember, a Section 8 eviction notice can only be used if the legal terms of the tenancy agreement have been broken.

Possession order

If you refuse to cooperate with the landlord or don’t leave the property within the specified period, you will receive a type of court order known as a possession order. This is a form of legal action that is used when an eviction notice is unsuccessful in getting the debtor to leave the property.

There are two main types of possession order: a ‘standard possession order’ – which is used to evict the tenant and claim back rent arrears – and an ‘accelerated possession order’ – which is used when the landlord doesn’t want to claim back unpaid rent.

If the landlord applies for an accelerated possession order, a judge will look at the information your landlord has provided and decide if a court hearing is required.

Warrant of eviction

The final step in the eviction process if you still haven’t left the property is the landlord going back to the court for a warrant of eviction. They do this by applying for a County Court bailiff warrant, which gives bailiffs the right to visit you and legally evict you from the property.

Once a warrant has been approved and issued by the court, bailiffs will issue an eviction notice, giving you 14 days’ notice to leave. If you’re still living at the property at the end of this period, bailiffs will be sent to your home to evict you.

If the matter is serious (e.g. if criminal activity was involved), your case could be escalated from the County Court to the High Court to be processed faster. This will lead to High Court bailiffs instead of County Court bailiffs visiting you.

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How long does it take to get bailiffs to evict tenants?

If the tenant doesn’t leave the property before the possession order expires, the landlord will usually get bailiffs involved. From this point, you should receive an N54 form which outlines the reason behind the bailiff visit.

Once you’ve received this notice, you will usually only be given a few days to live in the property and should ideally start looking for somewhere else to live, although this can differ depending on the availability of bailiffs from local County Courts. Even if you can stay with a friend or family member for a temporary period, it can give you somewhere to live while you make the necessary preparations.

The journey from being told that you could be evicted to bailiffs visiting you to evict you can take a while and you’ll have multiple opportunities to leave the property during this time.

We’ve provided a brief guide to how long each step typically takes below:

  • Notice period: 14 days minimum for section 8 and two months minimum for section 21
  • Order of possession: four to six weeks for approval and 14 days notice period for tenants
  • Warrant of eviction: four to six weeks for approval in County Court and 7 days for High Court
  • Bailiffs: 14 days minimum before bailiffs arrive but can be a few weeks depending on availability

The whole eviction process can take anything from a few weeks to a few months from start to finish but can vary depending on several factors, such as the availability of bailiffs and whether the case is happening in a small town or a big city.

What happens on the eviction date?

Typically, an eviction will be carried out by a County Court bailiff or High Court bailiff between the hours of 6am and 9pm.

It’s a legal requirement for bailiffs to give you at least 14 days’ notice of enforcement action and the date and time should be specified on the eviction notice to give you time to prepare.

If you’re still living in the property, bailiffs will ask you to leave as soon as possible so they can enter and change the locks. Ideally, you should be ready to hand the keys back and leave relatively quickly.

However, while bailiffs should allow a short time for you to move out, they don’t have to and you may have to make arrangements with your landlord to come back at a later date to collect the rest of your belongings.

Remember, you should ask to see a form of identification to confirm that the company they claim to work for matches the company listed on the eviction notice.

Similarly, if bailiffs damage any of your belongings or keep your belongings to pay for court costs, you may be able to claim the money back.

It’s important that you collect your belongings within a reasonable time. Failure to do so could lead to you being charged for storage or removal.

What should I do if I have nowhere to go after I’ve been evicted?

If you think you’re at risk of eviction but have nowhere to go, you can ask your local council for help. It’s worth noting that you don’t need to wait until after you’ve been evicted and should seek help as soon as possible.

Depending on your situation, you may qualify for emergency or long-term housing and the council may even help you find a new home. For example, if you’re a vulnerable person, have children, or are at risk of domestic abuse.

Even if you haven’t received an eviction notice yet, getting soon as soon as possible can help you find somewhere to live before you’re made legally homeless.

How do I complain about the way bailiffs have treated me?

If you feel bailiffs have treated you unfairly or broken the rules when they visited you, you have the right to complain to the bailiff or the company they work for directly.

Some of the things you can complain about include bailiffs:

  • Not visiting your home unannounced
  • Forcing entry into your home
  • Removing exempt or third-party goods
  • Harassing or threatening you
  • Misleading you or lying to you
  • Threatening you with legal action
  • Failing to disclose key information

If you’re not happy with the response you receive, you can escalate the complaint to a government organisation, such as the Financial Ombudsman, or, in extreme cases, the police or civil courts.

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Conclusion

The eviction process differs depending on the reason for the eviction but, in all cases, you should be given sufficient notice before bailiffs visit to ask you to leave the property.

When bailiffs evict tenants, there are certain rules they must follow to ensure they are abiding by the law and not causing you any undue stress or harm.

If you’re facing eviction and are worried you may not have a suitable place to stay, it’s crucial you seek help as soon as possible – even if you haven’t been served an eviction notice yet.

Key Takeaways

There are two main types of eviction used in the UK: a Section 8 eviction and a Section 21 eviction
Depending on the type of eviction, you'll be given between two weeks and two months notice to leave your property
Before bailiffs visit you, you'll be given 14 days notice to gather your belongings and leave your property
Bailiffs can only visit between the hours of 6am and 9pm
There are various stages to the eviction process and you should never be asked to leave at short notice with no warning
Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:

HISTORY

Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

June 18 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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