Only court bailiffs can remove you from your home if you do not leave after a court has ordered the repossession of your home.
Who are bailiffs?
Bailiffs who evict people from repossessed properties are usually employed by the local county court. Sometimes they are private bailiffs appointed by the High Court.
Only bailiffs appointed by a court can evict you.
When a repossession order is made, your home belongs to your mortgage lender. The bailiff's job is to give the repossessed property back to your lender. You and anyone who lives with you are evicted.
When bailiffs can be to sent to evict you
When the court grants an outright possession order, you are given a date to leave.
If you don't leave by this date, your mortgage lender can apply to the court for bailiffs to remove you.
Bailiffs are not automatically sent to remove you after a court order. Your mortgage lender must apply to the court for bailiffs to be sent to remove you.
To do this, the lender applies to the court for a warrant of possession. The warrant gives the bailiffs permission to remove you from the property.
Bailiffs can also be sent if you don't keep to the terms of a suspended possession order.
Notice from your lender and the bailiffs
A mortgage lender must send a notice to your home telling you they have asked the court to send bailiffs to evict you.
You get this notice at least 14 days before the eviction date.
The bailiffs must also give you advance notice of the date and time they are coming. They send a Notice of Eviction (form N54) or visit your home and leave the form there.
You should get the N54 at least two or three days before the bailiffs' visit. The form has their contact details
What happens when bailiffs evict you
Bailiffs usually come between 9am and 5pm. Ask to see their identification. They must have this with them.
If you are still in the property, the bailiffs ask you to leave. They may wait a short time while you move out but they don't have to do this.
The bailiffs will probably change the locks to make sure you can't get back in. They may also switch off the gas and electricity supply.
Your lender's solicitor or estate agent is also present when the bailiffs come. The bailiffs give the keys to them.
Bailiffs can ask the police to attend the eviction to prevent any disturbance.
How bailiffs should behave
Bailiffs must act reasonably and must not use unreasonable force. They are not allowed to:
- use violence, threaten or harass you or other people in your home
- use offensive language
- cause damage to your belongings
You can complain about bailiffs if you believe they have acted unreasonably.
Removal of belongings
Bailiffs won't remove any of your furniture or belongings unless the court has decided they can.
If you don't remove your belongings, they are left locked inside the property. You must make arrangements with your lender to collect them later.
You usually have to remove everything within a short period of time, for example two weeks. If you don't do this and don't make other arrangements, your lender can take steps to dispose of your belongings.
Get advice if you have nowhere to store your belongings.
Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser
Ask a court to stop or delay bailiffs
It's possible to ask a court to stop or delay the repossession after you've been told the bailiffs are coming. The judge only does this if they decide it's reasonable to do so.
You have to apply to the court for an urgent court hearing. Do not delay. Get help from a solicitor or legal adviser who specialises in housing law.
Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
Call Shelter’s free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444
Have the papers you received from the court with you when you speak to an adviser.
What you can ask the court to do
Delay the bailiffs
You might be able to argue that the bailiffs should be delayed because you are ill or have young or disabled children and need more time to find somewhere else to live.
If you are asking for a delay, you ask the court to suspend the warrant for possession.
Stop the bailiffs
You may also be able to ask the court to stop the bailiffs. In this case, you ask the court to set aside the warrant for possession.
This might be because:
- you were not informed about the court hearing at which the court ordered your home to be repossessed
- there is a good reason why you haven't acted earlier (for example, you have been ill, or away and were not aware of the situation)
- you have found a buyer for your property
- your circumstances have changed (for example you have a new job) and you will be able to pay off what you owe if you are given more time
- your lender didn't follow the correct procedure
How to apply
To apply for a warrant of possession to be suspended or set aside, you must fill in Form N244 to ask for a court hearing.
There is a fee to pay. You may not have to pay this if you claim certain benefits or have a low income. See court leaflet EX160A for details.
Explain your circumstances and the reason you want the bailiffs' visit to be stopped or delayed.
After you apply to stop the bailiffs
When a court receives an application to stop or delay bailiffs, it arranges an urgent hearing date.
Ask the court officer to tell the bailiffs' office if the hearing is arranged for the date of the repossession. The bailiffs should be told about the hearing so they do not carry out the repossession while you are at the court hearing.
If the judge decides to stop or delay the bailiffs, contact the bailiffs' office at the court. Explain that the repossession has been stopped or delayed.
The court won't always stop the bailiffs.
Last updated 20 Dec 2016 | © Shelter