Gypsies and Travellers: Facing eviction from a site

Check your rights and where to get help if you're facing eviction from an authorised site or an unauthorised encampment. 

Eviction from a permanent site

Most Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans or mobile homes stay on authorised permanent sites owned by a: 

  • private site owner
  • council or housing association

You can only be evicted from a permanent site if the site owner has a reason and gets a court order.

Reasons you could be evicted

You're at risk of eviction if you: 

  • behave antisocially
  • fail to pay the pitch fees
  • don't maintain your caravan or mobile home

You also risk eviction if you don't use the mobile home as your main residence. But most council sites will allow you to travel in your caravan for several weeks each year.

What happens at court

To get an eviction order, the site owner must usually show that:

  1. You've broken a term of your agreement.
  2. They've given you notice of this and a reasonable time to put things right.

There will be a possession hearing where the court looks at what's happened. You can attend with a solicitor or legal representative. 

The court decides whether it's reasonable to end your agreement and order eviction.

Eviction from a transit site

Some councils provide authorised transit sites. If you get a pitch on a transit site, you can stay there in your mobile home for up to 3 months. 

The council can end your right to stay on the site without a court order by giving you 4 weeks' written notice. They don't need to give a reason.

They can also end your right to stay on the site if you break the terms of your agreement. They must give you notice of what you've done and a reasonable time to put things right.

Eviction from your own land

There is a shortage of authorised permanent and transit sites in all areas. 

If you've bought your own land to get around this problem, you need planning permission and a site licence to park a caravan there and live in it. 

If you don't have planning permission and a site licence, the council can take legal action to prevent you or others from living on the land.

The council can:

  1. Give you an enforcement notice.
  2. Apply for a court injunction to remove you from the land. 

You can usually continue to live on your land unless the council takes enforcement action. This is called a 'tolerated' unauthorised development.

Eviction from an unauthorised encampment

An unauthorised encampment means parking up and living in your caravan in a place where you don't have legal permission to do so, including:

  • roads, verges and lay-bys
  • forests, parks and wasteland
  • farmland and other private land

You'll probably be told to move on by a police officer or council worker. You may be told to move to a transit site in the area. 

Negotiated stopping

In a few areas, you could come to a negotiated stopping agreement as an alternative to moving on immediately. 

This means that you agree to simple terms such as not lighting fires or leaving waste on the land. And the council agree to a temporary stay - typically up to a month.

Speak to a Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer at the council.

Removal directions and orders

If you don't move on when asked to do so, the council or police might:

  1. Give you a formal direction to leave the land.
  2. Apply for a removal order in the magistrates' court.      

The needs of any children on site should be considered before you're given a formal direction to leave.

Failure to leave an unauthorised encampment after a formal direction is a criminal offence. You could be arrested and fined or have your vehicle impounded.

You may have a defence if you can show you couldn't move on due to illness, mechanical breakdown or another emergency.

Homeless help if you're evicted 

You count as homeless if you have nowhere to legally park your caravan and live in it.

You can ask the council for help if you're homeless already or facing eviction within the next 8 weeks.

Where to get help and advice

You can get specialist legal advice for Gypsies and Travellers from the following organisations:

Call the Travellers Advice Team on 0121 685 8677

Call Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) on 01273 234777

You may qualify for legal aid if you're facing eviction or already homeless.

Search for specialist services for Gypsies and Travellers on the FFT website

Last updated 04 March 2019 | © Shelter

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