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Take notice of court guidance for enforcement of residential possession orders

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In the recent case of Partridge v Gupta [2017] EWHC 2110 (QB), the court considered what notice is required to be given to a residential tenant, when a landlord transfers a County Court possession order to the High Court for enforcement.

The Court held that a letter from the landlord informing the tenant of their intention to apply to the court for a writ of possession (combined with the tenant’s participation in the County Court proceedings) was sufficient notice.

Enforcement of possession orders

Landlords often choose to transfer possession orders to the High Court for enforcement, since High Court Enforcement Agents can usually carry out the eviction quicker than County Court bailiffs.

The test for deciding whether the court’s permission to issue a writ of possession should be granted is whether "every person in actual possession of the whole or any part 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."

What is sufficient notice?

In Partridge, the court said that "Notice of the proceedings" does not necessarily require the service of the formal notice of application for permission, or even a more informal letter that the application will be heard on a particular day or at a particular time. Although the judge noted that either would be sufficient.

This contradicts the decision in Secretary of State for Defence v Nicholas [2015] EWHC 4064 (Ch), where the court held that notice of the court application should have been given to the tenant. This was distinguished on the basis that in the Nicholas case, there was a pending “live” application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In light of the contrasting decisions, the court noted that what constitutes "sufficient notice" will vary from case to case and the court simply needs to be satisfied that any "occupant" knows enough about the "proceedings" to be able to apply for appropriate relief.

Practical Tips

The Partridge judgment helpfully sets out guidance of how landlords can ensure sufficient notice is provided:

  • Prior to transferring a possession order to the High Court for enforcement, landlords should write to the tenant to:
    • Remind/inform them of the terms of the court possession order;
    • Request that the tenant gives up possession in accordance with the court order; and
    • Inform the tenant that permission for a writ of possession will be requested from the court if possession is not delivered up, and that eviction will follow.
  • Where there are occupants other than the defendant tenant, the landlord should also write to them directly (if known by name) or send a letter addressed to "the occupants" providing the same information.
  • Service of the formal notice of application for permission, or an informal letter that the application will be heard on a particular day or at a particular time, will be sufficient notice.

Conclusion

The practice of transferring possession orders to the High Court for enforcement looks set to continue, given speed is often an important factor.

Given the number of procedural hoops a landlord is required to jump through to obtain possession from a residential tenant, they will not want to fall foul of a procedural requirement at the last hurdle.

Landlords should ensure they follow the court’s guidance from this case, and provide tenants and occupiers with sufficient notice of their intended enforcement action, in order to recover possession as quickly as possible.  

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