It can be cause for great concern when your land is suddenly taken over, most commonly by travellers or protesters.
The landlord has two routes they may use to remove trespassers from their land – they can obtain a writ of possession through the High Court, or they can use Common Law.
Writ of Possession
The landowner may apply to the High Court for a Writ of Possession, which is then enforced by High Court Enforcement Officers. The recent eviction of protesters from Parliament Square was recently completed by one of our competitors acting, perhaps a little enthusiastically, using a Writ of Possession on behalf of London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
This is an action that may be taken by the landowner or their authorised agent. Should the trespassers be obstructing a public highway, then the local authorities can act to remove them without the landowner’s co-operation.
Under Common Law a landowner has the right to evict trespassers from their property. If the trespasser refuses to leave, then the landowner can use as much force as is necessary to remove them, but no more. The removal is normally undertaken by Certificated Bailiffs.
If the Police have to be brought in to support the eviction, the Police have discretionary power under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which allows them to evict trespassers providing two or more people have entered the land for the purpose of residing there AND reasonable steps have been taken by the landowner to ask the trespassers to leave. If this is the case, then one of these conditions must also be met for the Police to evict the trespassers:
• Any one of the trespassers damages the land or property on the land
• Any one of them threatens or abuses the landowner, a member of their family or one of their employees or agents of the occupier.
• There are six or more vehicles, including caravans, on the land
If it is possible that there is a risk of breach of the peace, the Police may advice the landowner to obtain a writ of possession first.
David is the CEO of The Sheriffs Office.