Evictions specialist Paul Shamplina warns of “court avalanche” when evictions ban ends

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, warns that county courts are facing an ‘eviction avalanche’ when the ban on bailiff-led evictions comes to an end on 31 May.

According to Shamplina, with the exception of last year, the number of evictions has been steadily falling, since its peak in 2015, by an average of 8% a year.

In 2019, some 30,813 evictions were carried out by County Courts in England and Wales. This means that in a ‘normal’ year, there would have been an estimated 28,000 evictions in 2020.

But due to Covid-19 and the subsequent ban on evictions, just 7,451 took place, of which 6,903 were carried out between January and March 2020, prior to the national lockdown.

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, said “Unfortunately, we now have a situation where cases are backed up, new cases are arising all the time and the scale of the issue is impossible to predict because so many are still being cushioned by support such as furlough, business grants and/or mortgage holidays. When this package of measures comes to an end, and without government support to help tenants pay back accumulated arrears, I fear we could be heading for an eviction avalanche.”

According to Landlord Action, prior to the pandemic, cases with six months’ rent arrears were quite rare as the process to evict was much quicker and would usually be carried out prior to arrears reaching such levels. Now, more than 60% of new instructions to Landlord Action have six months’ rent arrears, meaning all of these cases will meet the exemption criteria and require court action.

Of course, not all cases result in an eviction. Often disputes are resolved at some point during the process after a landlord makes a claim, either by tenants moving out, paying the rent they owe or coming to another agreement with the landlord. However, all of these cases must also be processed by County Courts.

In 2019 there were 110,907 claims issued, of which 87,698 turned into orders. In 2020, there were 39,681 claims issued, of which 22,115 turned into orders.

“Thousands of landlords have got court orders outstanding from a year ago and warrants due to expire, leaving them having to reapply to the courts. We don’t yet know if these landlords will be at the front or the back of the queue,” said Shamplina.

In 2019, an eviction (from getting an order issued at court to gaining possession) would take on average 44.5² weeks to complete via County Court.  This followed a decade in which half of courts across England and Wales were closed. Today, there are just 178 County Courts open and 294 County Court Bailiffs.

Daren Simcox, chairman of court enforcement services, says that the average time to evict could take a further six months on top of the existing time. He believes landlords should be given the option to pay for a High Court enforcement officer to carry out their eviction, rather than having to wait for the County Court to transfer cases up to the High Court, as is currently the process

He commented: “County Courts are starting to grant leave to enforce Orders for Possession under the exemptions from the Stay, specifically the exemption citing “substantial rent arrears” [qualified as six months or greater in arrears value].  However, the overall picture in County Courts in terms of evictions is concerning. There is already a chronic shortage of County Court Bailiffs and now, in addition to their daily workload, they will be expected to carry out evictions which could not take place last year.

“A backlog of this size is going to take months. This means that landlords could find they are granted a Warrant of Possession but then have to wait weeks and weeks to enforce the eviction. If Courts are satisfied that cases have met the exemptions, landlords should be given the option to wait for a County Court Bailiff or pay to use High Court Enforcement Officer which would speed the process up for them and help to alleviate the backlog.”

There has been some hope for landlords in the last month or so, as exemptions for evictions have been granted by judges at hearings because every rent arrears case is more than six months.

“The problem is we have not heard anything from the court service that there is going to be any further investment in bailiff recruitment. Whilst there is a continued need to protect tenants who have been severely impacted by the pandemic, many landlords feel the debt has simply been shifted to them, the majority of whom cannot afford to go on.” added Shamplina.

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3 Comments

  1. paulgbar666

    To believe that the backlog of cases can be dealt with in months is for the birds.   I would suggest years!   Perhaps Nightingale County Courts will resolve matters.   But LL forget that Govt is seeking to eradicate them.   They will therefore be making it as difficult as possible to evict.   Govt should allow automatically LL to escalate to the High Court but DJ prevent this   DJ should NOT be allowed to prevent escalation to the High Court. The losses involved in 1 year aren’t being quantified correctly. It is at least £9 billion. LL cannot afford to lose such rent monies which is what mist of the losses are. Many LL will be leaving the PRS when their evictions have finally succeeded. LL will be lucky to achieve eviction 3 years from now if the existing County Court system is all that is provided to assist eviction.   Much of the County Court bailiffs time is wasted serving Court notices.   This should be stopped immediately to allow CC bailiffs to carry out all the evictions required. The other suff can be delegated to others. Pay private bailiffs to serve etc. But none of this will occur as Govt intends to make it as awkward as possible for LL to evict.   We can’t be far off the abolishment of the AST and consequently S21. Will all S21 cases be allowed to proceed once it is abolished!!!!??    

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    1. PossessionFriendUK39

      I think your right Paul,  factor in that a Review  hearing ( no doubt designed to   weed out as many of the technically not legal Possession claims –  i  not  dotted   etc )

      Also,  that the Possession claims are now being handled by a Cadre of specialist Housing    trained judges.  Two points here,   firstly,  there’s less of them   and secondly,

      They’ll be more aware of technical legal infringements that landlords can fall foul of due to the plethora of legislation and regulation the Govt have introduced onto the  PRS.

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      1. paulgbar666

        Yep I’ve tried my best to keep up to date with these ever changing regulations.

        I admit defeat in that I no longer trust myself with doing the whole process.

         

        I have carried out 5 evictions very successfully over the years.

         

        It was as boring as hell to do.

        No way would I even attempt it now.

         

        I would use the experts such as yourself or LL Action.

        At least that way I WON’T be playing a veritable snakes and ladders game!!

        It is of course in Govt interests politically to restrict the number of evictions that process through the dysfunctional County Court process.

         

        I can see lots of LL being bankrupted whilst all this occurs.

        Eventually even a LL magic money tree will run out!!!

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