Legal Life is delighted this month to bring you an article on the complexities of Bailiff Law. Steve Wood of Able Investigation & Enforcement Solutions, based in St. Annes Bristol, writes about some of the recent changes in the law affecting bailiffs and re-possession of property.
There may come a time in your business career when you will have to instruct a Bailiff, or perhaps you have already had some experience of dealing with Bailiffs.
What is your impression of the Bailiff profession?
In your mind’s eye, do you see a six foot man mountain or do you see a professional? Do you see someone who understands Bailiff Law and current legislation, someone who knows how to deal with people under stress with tact and judgement?
To be an effective bailiff today requires more than brute force, quite the opposite in fact; diplomacy and expertise serve us far better than a strong hand; understanding the laws and legislations also helps, in fact it’s one of the most important criteria when selecting a bailiff or agent.
Recent news is the introduction of new bailiff procedures known as “CRAR”, Commercial Rent Action Recovery, aimed to bring the bailiff procedures into the 21st Century, although I have my doubts as to whether this will actually come into force.
In order to be an effective Bailiff today, the person you employ whether it be for a rent matter, process serving or an eviction, they should know not only the particular piece of legislation that they are dealing with, but know how that Law can be implemented into the situation.
As an example let us look at ‘Residential & Commercial Squatters & Evictions’.
Did you know that here in Bristol there is a Police unit especially dedicated to gather intelligence on squatters and in January 2012 I was honoured to be asked to join. The purpose was to bring together the Bailiffs and the Police to work in unison on tackling Squatters and Squatting.
This has led us to assist with the training of some of the Avon & Somerset Officers in Bailiff Law; what was surprising was the amount of officers who have worked with Bailiffs yet did not understand the powers we have available to us, and how the Law works when it comes to evicting squatters, or carrying out Commercial & Domestic Rent Collections.
You may be surprised to hear that Bristol is a hot-bed for Squatters & Squatting and has the largest squatting community outside of London. You can even find websites giving advice on how to squat, what to do if the Police or Bailiffs turn up & how to avoid being evicted.
90-92% of squatting in Bristol is a lifestyle choice & not down to homelessness; most squatters in Bristol are connected with one of the many ‘Rights Organisations’ such as Animal Rights, Squatters Rights amongst many others, some not so pleasant.
Most are Activists who are also anti-establishment, with the aim to try and bring down the Government; it has little to do with homelessness. The majority of Squatters are middle-class, are well educated, have laptops, mobile phones & access to funds along with a network of other Squatters to call on.
Squatters have always used Section 6, Protection from Eviction Act, when it comes to fighting to remain in a property, often referred to as ‘Squatters Rights’. In reality there is no such thing as squatters rights, the ‘Protection from Eviction Act’ was brought in to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords.
In May this year it became a criminal office to squat in a residential property within the introduction of; Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 Sec: 144 Offence of squatting in a residential building.
Having spoken with the police it is surmised that it will begin to be enforced in September 2012; when they have had training on modes of entry and the law governing this piece of the Act. Until that time we would recommend that a Court Order be obtained for eviction from residential property.
When the Police do start to enforce the Act I would suggest that a Bailiff or Agent from the owner of the property should still be on site to ensure that the property is secured after the police have left, as we all know what would happen if the police just walksed away after the eviction, they would all get back into the property and re-squat.
Commercial property is completely different, in many cases a Court Order is not necessary providing that a Bailiff can gain peaceful entry into the property, this means without using force against a person. Once inside the property a certificated bailiff we can then evict using reasonable force should it be necessary.
When it comes to Travellers or any persons on open land then we revert back to using ‘Old English Common Law’. A Certificated Bailiff can remove travellers without the need for obtaining a Court Order. We normally enforce the removal of travellers on private property or common land giving them 24 hrs notification. If they do not move within the time then we can and do evict them; however, should they be causing damage then they can be removed within a couple of hours.
Should you require any assistance in any Bailiff, Investigation or Eviction matter, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0845 3707 401 or firstname.lastname@example.org