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Accelerated possession simply means that the judge will first review paperwork and that still has to be fitted into a crammed county court schedule. If the judge feels a hearing is required, far from being accelerated, the process can turn out to be even slower than conventional proceedings.
We would expect to wait 14-21 days before receiving notification that the claim has been issued and the papers have been sent to the tenant. The court normally allows two working days from the date of posting for the papers to be formally deemed served upon the tenant. Thereafter the tenant has 14 days to file a defence to the proceedings.
If after 14 days no defence is received we will write to the court requesting a possession order. At this point there may be a further delay as the file will be placed before a District Judge to review and make a decision. If the judge is happy with the paperwork he will usually make a 14 day possession order without the need for a hearing.
If there is anything in the paperwork that the judge wants to question, he may set the matter down for a short hearing. This step may take up to four weeks to complete.
Accelerated tenant eviction process
You can only use the accelerated possession procedure to claim vacant possession and your costs of making the application including court fees. You cannot include a claim for arrears of rent and if rent is also claimed this will nullify the entire accelerated possession proceedings.
In order to grant the accelerated possession order, the court will require sight of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement, the Section 21 Notice and evidence of the service of the Section 21 Notice. If granted, an accelerated possession order remains in force for six years from the date of the order.
As long as the paperwork is in order, there is no defence available to the tenant and the accelerated possession order will be made requiring the tenant vacate the property within (usually) 14 days.
Once the possession order has expired, if the tenant has not vacated the property, we will need to instruct the County Court Bailiff to formally evict them. This is done by making a request for a warrant of possession. Once a request for a warrant for possession has been sent to the Bailiff, it usually takes up to 21 days to receive notification of an eviction date.
It is possible to use High Court Enforcement Officers in some cases but you should discuss all you options with us at an early stage if you wish to use High Court Sheriffs. The tenant eviction date by County Court Bailiffs outside London would normally be within six weeks of the order being granted.
To obtain any order for possession the landlord must show that the tenant breached the terms of the lease agreement using one of several grounds set out in the Housing Act 1988 amended by the Housing Act 1996.
These grounds for possession apply to most tenancies entered into after 15 January 1989. Some grounds are mandatory, where the tenant will definitely be ordered to leave if the landlord can prove breach of contract. Some are discretionary, where it's up to the judge to decide if possession is granted dependent on the circumstances.
An application may be made through the court in person or by post, but if speed is a consideration it is better to use the Possession Claim Online (PCOL) system, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service's Internet-based resource for claimants and defendants.
The PCOL route is very efficient. Often, Access Legal’s landlord law team will be given a date for a court hearing the same day as proceedings are commenced online. Occasionally, that's the same day as we are instructed by the client. We can then advise the client immediately about where and when they have to attend court.
This is much quicker than sending papers to the court which can often stay dormant in the system for a long period even if a hearing may not be required. The tenant will still be given a four week opportunity to respond to the papers. However using PCOL does at least give some certainty as to when the matter will be looked at by the court.
How to evict a tenant quickly?
As long as the landlord has served the right notices and provided all of the required prescribed information in the correct form, attended to dilapidations at the property and protected the deposit, a tenant should not be able to defend or unduly delay accelerated possession proceedings.
Once you get the possession order, this is not the end of the story. The tenants can apply to the court for more time in cases of ‘exceptional hardship’. The definition of ‘exceptional hardship’ is fairly flexible, but at least for this type of claim judges cannot allow the tenant more than six weeks from the date the order was made.
If the tenants have not left by the date in the court order for possession, you will need to make an application for the County Court bailiffs to physically evict the tenants. In some courts you can get an appointment in about two to three weeks, but in many courts (particularly the busy London courts) you will face a far longer wait.
The order for possession can be transferred to the High Court after which the tenant eviction can be done by the High Court Sheriffs also known as High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) who will normally give you an eviction date in a few days.
Using an HCEO does have advantages compared to the powers of a County Court Bailiff, but their services are considerably more expensive than the Bailiff’s fee. if you wish to use this option we would suggest you liaise with us at an early stage of proceedings.
The growing number of landlords choosing to take the accelerated possession route for for evicting a tenant is perhaps understandable thanks to increasing delays in an overstretched county court system and the wait for a limited number of County Court bailiffs.
The situation is exacerbated by tenants being told by local authorities to remain in properties come what may because the council will not re-house tenants who have ‘voluntarily’ made themselves homeless. Before you can use the accelerated procedure at all, you need to have already served a Section 21 Notice which has expired.
The minimum notice period you can give is two months but may need to be longer. Landlords and agents must still comply with the rules relating to the provision of prescribed information in the correct form and will not be able to use accelerated possession procedures unless they can prove that any deposit taken was protected.
Although the process is ‘accelerated’ because, in theory the judge makes the order on the basis of the paperwork alone, speed will depend on how quickly a judge does their ‘box work ‘and whether the paperwork is perfectly correct.
If there is something wrong with your application, or if the defendant puts in a defence which seems viable (for example if the tenant claims that he has never received the Section 21 Notice), then the judge will set the case down for a hearing, which can be as much as three months later.
'You need to have a legal team who are caring, who you absolutely trust and who will tell you the truth. Certainly from our point of view Denise Stephens from Access Legal has been absolutely amazing.'
Although somewhat faster than traditional proceedings there are downsides to the accelerated possession procedure and it is important to talk through this option with our experts at Access Legal.Why Access Legal