With summer in full swing, this is the time of year when we see a high level of movement amongst the traveller community.
Just last week we removed five groups of travellers from land, some under Common Law, some under a writ of possession.
Can occupation be prevented?
The answer to this depends very much on the site itself, access to it and how it is used. We find many retailers and business parks are targeted, but it is difficult to close off the site if customers or members of staff need to access it, and delivery areas are normally used 24 hours a day.
We even had travellers in the car park of our building not long ago – they obviously didn’t realise who was based there. Needless to say their stay was very short!
If you can prevent access when the site is not being used, then we would advise you to do so (contact our Security team if you would like advice on securing your site).
You have two options for removal – Common Law or a court order for possession. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
- Carried out by Certificated Enforcement Agents
- They serve eviction notices, giving a maximum timescale (often 24 hours) to vacate the site, returning when this is up to ensure they have left
- If they remain, the Certificated Enforcement Agent can remove them and their vehicles from the site using tow trucks if necessary.
The main advantage is that you can act straight away and do not need to go to court. However, we are finding at present that, on some occasions, the Police are reluctant to support the removal if it is done under Common Law and without a court order.
Writ of possession
- The landlord or their solicitor obtains an order for possession, normally in the County Court
- The High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) will transfer it to the High Court to obtain the writ, which will be made against “persons unknown”
- There is no requirement to give notice to the trespassers, but it is good practice to do so, especially as this will give the Enforcement Agent the opportunity to check the site in advance and perform a risk assessment
Obtaining the order and subsequent writ will take longer than using Common Law; however, it does carry more weight and authority. High profile evictions from land, such as Parliament Square a few years ago, are always carried out under a writ of possession.
Government advice to Local Authorities is that they should obtain a court order before carrying out an eviction.
Advice in traveller season
Be vigilant and take all precautionary measures you can to prevent occupation. If they do come onto your land, act quickly to remove them. And if you do need to remove travellers or other trespassers, you may need a clean-up team on stand-by to remove the detritus they leave behind.
David is the former CEO of The Sheriffs Office.