Step 3 – Bailiff basics

Section 21

A landlord can’t use any bailiff, they must use a court bailiff, which is a type of bailiff who cannot collect debts. If a tenant fails to vacate by the possession date, the landlord can apply for a county court bailiff warrant of possession.

Once a request for a county court bailiff warrant of possession has been filed at court together, with the appropriate court fee, the court will issue a warrant number. The warrant number then goes into a queue for the court to make a bailiff appointment.

Like all public services, the bailiffs are stretched. It can take some time to be told the appointment date, and the date itself can be quite some time further in the future – usually four to six weeks. A county court bailiff will then attend the property and carry out the bailiff eviction.

The bailiff requires the landlord to complete a risk assessment form, so that any risks that may be encountered at the bailiff eviction can be highlighted in advance. The eviction will only go ahead if the risk assessment form is submitted to court in advance of the eviction date. Landlord Action sends the form to landlords well in advance to enable a return to court in good time.

High court bailiff instead of county court bailiff

The waiting period for a high court bailiff (also known as the high court sheriff) is significantly less than for a county court bailiff. In order to apply for a high court bailiff the case must be transferred to the high court.

At the county court hearing, once a possession order has been granted, the advocate will usually ask permission to transfer the case to the high court. Some judges agree with this approach, while others don’t - it is discretionary. Judges tend to agree when the arrears are exceptionally high, or the tenant is a neighbourhood nuisance. If permission is granted then the case can be transferred, which involves a paper application and a fee.

Although high court eviction costs are higher than it is to get a county court bailiff warrant of possession, a high court eviction is the quicker option. And the longer the tenant is in the property, the more rent the landlord is losing. So whenever permission is granted to transfer to the high court, it’s worth weighing up which bailiff eviction route to go down and not ruling out a high court eviction on the basis of cost.