A possession order will be obtained by a landowner or landlord when they wish to remove the occupants from their land or property. This may be due to reasons such as non-payment of rent or occupation without permission.

Whatever the reason, the claimant will need to go to court to obtain the order before they can commence enforcement action (please see my article on forfeiture of lease, an alternative Common Law remedy for commercial landlords).

Which court?

In the majority of cases, the claimant will be required to start the claim in the county court. This will be the county court in the same district as the property to be repossessed.

However, under exceptional circumstances, the claimant may be able to apply through the High Court. These circumstances include:

  • Complicated disputes of fact
  • Points of law of general importance
  • A claim against trespassers where there is a substantial risk of public disturbance or serious harm to persons or property

Cases such as the removal of protestors in Parliament Square, the Dale Farm eviction and Occupy at St Paul's would most probably meet the third criterion. The value of the property is not, on its own, enough justification to start a claim in the High Court.

If a claim is wrongly started in the High Court, it will either be stricken out or transferred to the county court. This will cause delays and extra costs, which will probably be disallowed.

Enforcement of the order

If your possession order is awarded in the county court - as most will be - then it can be enforced by a county court bailiff under a warrant of possession.

Alternatively you can transfer it to the High Court for execution by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) under a writ of possession. As private companies paid on results, HCEOs tend to be able to act more quickly than county court bailiffs, so may be a better option for a speedy result.

With a High Court possession order, this will be enforced by an HCEO under a writ of possession.

So, where to start?

A good place to start is with legal advice. In most cases your claim will need to go to the county court local to the property. Then, for fast and effective repossession, instruct an HCEO to transfer it to the High Court and then enforce it.

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