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5 November, 2020 Open access

Lord Chancellor writes to High Court Enforcement Officers Association with guidance on enforcement action during the new lockdown in England

Enforcement agents requested not to enter or attend residential properties for the purpose of enforcement by taking control of goods or, except in limited circumstances, for the purpose of enforcing a writ of possession or restitution

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland has written to the High Court Enforcement Officers Association with guidance on enforcement action during the new lockdown in England.

In his letter dated 5 November 2020, the Lord Chancellor says -

'Following the announcement by the Prime Minister about the implementation of national restrictions in England to reduce the spread of coronavirus from 5 November, I am writing to request that you ask your members to adhere to the following guidance while the measures are in place.'

During the time when restrictions are in force under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020, Mr Buckland says -

Renters will be protected during the national restrictions, with no bailiff enforcement action, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (5 November 2020).

Measures, including the pause on evictions starting in December, mean evictions will not be enforced until the 11 January 2021 

'I would request that in addition to the ongoing requirement for your members to adhere to the Government's Covid-secure guidance for enforcement agents, that they also do not enter residential properties in England for the purpose of enforcement by taking control of goods.

I would also request that during this time your members do not attend residential properties in England for the purpose of enforcing a writ of possession or restitution, including serving notice of enforcement, except in the following limited circumstances: illegal trespass or squatting by persons unknown, nuisance or antisocial behaviour, domestic abuse, fraud or deception and properties unoccupied following the death of the defendant. In other words, where the order for possession has been granted -

  • following a claim against trespassers to which rule 55.6 (service of claims against trespassers) of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 applies;
  • under section 84A of the Housing Act 1985;
  • on Ground 2, Ground 2A or Ground 5 in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985;
  • on Ground 7A, Ground 14, Ground 14A or Ground 17 in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988;
  • under case 2 of Schedule 15 to the Rent Act 1977; or
  • on Ground 7 in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 and where the person attending is satisfied that the dwelling house is unoccupied at the time of attendance.'

Mr Buckland adds that he intends to introduce an exemption for cases with 'extreme pre-Covid rent arrears' and will provide further detail shortly, and that, given the situation is rapidly changing, the government will continue to keep its approach under review in order to ensure it remains 'responsive and proportionate.'

A copy of the Lord Chancellor's letter is available via the Court Enforcement Services LinkedIn page.

Stop press: the government has this evening confirmed that -

'Renters will be protected during the national restrictions, with no bailiff enforcement action ... Measures, including the pause on evictions starting in December, mean evictions will not be enforced until 11 January 2021 at the earliest ...'

For more information, see New protections for renters over duration of national restrictions from gov.uk