The summer is normally a period when the traveller community are on the move, bringing increased risks for landowners, both private and local authorities.
Whatever you do, never attempt to remove travellers yourself, as you could lay yourself open to charges of assault, as well as putting yourself in a potentially hazardous situation.
If you would like to learn more about the removal of trespassers from land, we are running a complimentary webinar on 9th June 2016 – booking details are below.
Removal of travellers – Common Law
The preferred route for many landlords is to evict them under Common Law, using certificated enforcement agents (The Sheriffs Office eviction team members are certificated enforcement agents).
The certificated enforcement agents (EA) will attend the site as soon as possible after instruction – this may even be on the same day as instruction – to serve eviction notices, giving the travellers a maximum timescale, generally 24 hours, to vacate.
After the notice period, the EAs will return to the site to check the travellers have left. If they haven’t, then the EAs will remove them and their vehicles from the site. If it is possible to do so, they will then secure the site.
Removal of travellers – writ of possession
There may be circumstances where going to court to get a writ of possession is the better route. If there are likely to be large-scale protests and Police support might be required, then a writ can be the right way, as we have found that the Police are sometimes reluctant to support an eviction where there is no court order.
In the case of local authorities, Government advice is that they should seek a court order and evict under a warrant of possession (county court bailiff) or writ of possession (High Court Enforcement Officer).
The claim will normally start in the county court – only very high profile cases will start in the High Court – and once the order for possession is awarded, it is transferred up to the High Court for enforcement under a writ of possession against “persons unknown”.
Where the writ is against persons unknown, permission to transfer up to the High Court is NOT required.
Removal of caravans and animals
When removing the travellers, the EAs will need to clear the land of all the belongings, as well as the people. This may include caravans and vehicles, usually removed by tow trucks if the owners don’t remove them, and animals.
The eviction team you use should have arrangements in place with animal sanctuaries and stables to safely remove any animals and provide accommodation where this is needed.
It is the land owner’s responsibility to arrange the removal of animals and caravans, which does include the right destroy the caravan and animals. This fact can often be successfully used to encourage the travelers to take all their belongings with them when they leave, thus also removing any excuse for them to re-force entry back onto the land.
Some sites are so open it is almost impossible to prevent access, but there may still be things you can do to make it harder.
Where you can, put fences and gates or barriers in place to prevent access. You may want to consider round the clock security, such as guards and also alarms, remote monitoring and CCTV.
It is, of course, easier to secure an industrial site or a car park, than open land, but you can create natural barriers such as trees, banks of earth, logs, rocks etc.
If you would like to find out more, you can take part in our webinar on the removal of travellers on 9th June 2016 from 12:30 to 13:30.
Lawyers can earn one CPD point for participating in the webinar.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance