If the court orders you to leave your home
If the court has ordered you to leave your home, and you haven’t spoken to an adviser yet, do so immediately. Contact a solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter Cymru adviser who can help you work out your options. It may not be too late to delay the eviction or, in some circumstances, to stop it altogether. An adviser may be able to help you take your case back to court, or if the eviction can’t be stopped, to help you find alternative accommodation.
If the court orders a repossession, it will set a date by which you have to move out. If you don’t leave by that date, your lender or freeholder can ask the bailiffs to evict you. Even at this stage, it may be possible to stop the eviction from going ahead, so it’s always worth getting advice to see if there is any action you can take to try and keep your home.
When will the bailiffs come?
The bailiffs will come to your home and leave a form informing you of the date and time of the eviction. They may ask if any special arrangements need to be made because of your personal circumstances, for example if you need help because you have children, are elderly or are disabled. If they don’t ask this but you think you will need help, get advice or contact the bailiffs’ office at the court.
The amount of notice you get depends on your local bailiffs’ office, but you should have at least a few days’ notice. There are no rules about what time during the day they can come, but it will normally be within normal working hours.
Can I stop or delay the eviction?
It may not be too late to save your home. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to stop or delay the bailiffs from coming to evict you. However, you have to apply to the court to do this, and need to take action quickly.
You have to fill in a form to request a court hearing, explaining your circumstances and the reason you want the bailiffs’ visit to be stopped or delayed. The court will arrange for the hearing, which might even be set for the date of the eviction itself.
If the eviction hasn’t taken place yet, get advice straightaway!
What happens if I apply to stop or delay the bailiffs?
When you fill in the form for the court hearing, you will be given a date and time for a hearing to take place. If you want a representative to attend the court hearing with you to help you explain your situation to the court, contact a specialist advice centre or a solicitor as soon as possible. You must attend the hearing so that the court can listen to why you think the eviction should be stopped or delayed.
At the hearing, the judge may agree to stop or delay the eviction if:
- you are ill or have young children, and need more time to find somewhere else to live
- your circumstances have changed (such as if you have a new job) and you are likely to be able to pay off what you owe if you are given more time
- there is a good reason why you haven’t done anything to stop the eviction earlier (such as if you have been away and were not aware of the situation and court proceedings)
- your lender or freeholder got the possession order by fraud or didn’t follow the correct procedure.
In very rare situations, the court may agree to let you stay in the property until your lender sells it. This is only likely to happen if your lender (or freeholder) doesn’t need the property until after the completion date and you are willing to co-operate when the sale goes ahead.
If the judge decides to stop or delay the bailiffs’ visit, you should contact the bailiffs’ office at the court to make sure that they are aware that the eviction has been stopped or delayed. If the judge doesn’t agree to this, the eviction will go ahead. Contact a local advice centre if you need help finding alternative accommodation.
What happens when the bailiffs arrive?
The bailiffs can physically remove you from your home. They can use necessary force to enter the property and can remove anyone living there. The bailiffs have to act reasonably, and mustn’t use unreasonable force. The locks will normally be changed to ensure you can’t get back in. This will happen even if you are not in the property when the bailiffs arrive.
The bailiffs can ask the police to be present if they think you might try to stop them from getting in. The police aren’t allowed to help the bailiffs with the eviction but are there in case there is any disturbance. The police can arrest anyone who is violent. Your lender’s (or freeholder’s) solicitor or estate agent will also be present at the eviction, and will then have the keys to the property.
What will happen to my belongings?
The bailiffs won’t remove any of your furniture or belongings unless the court has decided they should do so. The bailiffs will usually watch while you do this yourself. If you don’t remove your belongings, they will be left locked inside. You will need to make arrangements with your lender or freeholder to collect them later.
You normally have to remove everything within a short period of time, for example, two weeks. If you can’t do so and don’t make other arrangements, your lender or freeholder may be able to dispose of them.
Can I get back into the property after the eviction?
Apart from collecting any personal belongings that have been left in the property with your lender’s agreement, it is not usually possible to get back into the property. However, the court may agree to allow you to return, if you can show that:
- the possession order was obtained through fraud
- the correct legal process wasn’t followed.
It may also be possible if you can raise the money to pay off your mortgage debt soon after the eviction. You would have to apply for an injunction to stop the sale of your home while the arrangements are made. If contracts have already been exchanged with a buyer, you can’t stop the sale from going ahead.
What can I do if the bailiffs treat me unfairly?
If you believe the bailiffs have acted unreasonably, you may be able to make a complaint. This might be possible if the bailiffs:
- use violence, or threaten to do so
- harass you or other people living in the property
- threaten to arrest or imprison you (unless you have assaulted the bailiff)
- use offensive language
- take away or cause damage to your belongings
- carry out the eviction when only children are in the property.
You normally have to complain to the local bailiffs’ office at the court first. They should be able to explain how to do this. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may be able to complain to the Association of Civil Enforcement Agents if the bailiff is a member. If this is not successful, you can take the matter to court, but will probably need help from a solicitor.