Case Study: Trespassers
Senior Associate Solicitor Gemma Hackett and Trainee Solicitor Olivia McAllister recently acted for our client when one of their properties was occupied by trespassers. The matter required swift and decisive action.
Greenhalgh Kerr were instructed by a longstanding client with a large national residential property portfolio, to assist when an entire ground floor (made up of three separate properties) of one of their developments became occupied by a group of trespassers.
Aside from the obvious interference (the trespassers having entered the properties without licence or consent), GK’s client had received complaints from other residents, including professionals and families with children, who expressed their concern that the trespassers had substance abuse problems, were demonstrating violent and aggressive behaviour, were loud and had carried out a number of thefts and caused damage in the proximate buildings.
Despite pleas for help, the police declined to assist in the matter, declaring it to be a civil issue and so the trespassers remained in possession of the properties to the dismay of our client and its residents.
The issue was particularly concerning for our client due to their obligations to other residents, loss of rental income, depreciation and damage of the properties as well as the risk of negative publicity. Internally, the matter had escalated to board and investment level.
GK were instructed. An interim possession order (CPR 55, Part III) was not an option because more than 28 days had passed since knowledge of occupation had arisen. Only ‘ordinary’ Part 55, Part I proceedings against ‘persons unknown’ were an option and so it was incumbent upon GK to act as swiftly as possible to recover possession for the client.
What did GK do?
- Three possession claims were issued against persons unknown (three demised properties being occupied and to avoid any issue arising from bringing a claim in respect of the entire ground floor only). We invited the Court office to issue and list the three possession claims concurrently.
- Using our approved firm of process servers, we facilitated service in accordance with CPR 55.6 (attaching copies of the claim form, particulars of claim and any witness statements to the main door or some other part of the land so that they are clearly visible and, where practicable, inserting copies of those documents in a sealed transparent envelope addressed to ‘the occupiers’ through the letterbox).
- Our approved Counsel attended the hearings of the possession claims and obtained orders for possession forthwith (i.e., immediately). Counsel obtained sealed copies of the orders for possession on the day to avoid any delay in enforcement (whilst waiting for copy orders).
- We instructed our approved firm of High Court Enforcement Officers to enforce the orders for possession by writs of possession. Due to the number of trespassers and a risk of violence, we arranged for four officers to attend and enforce without notice.
- We gave our Client adequate notice to ensures measures were in place to immediately secure the properties following the evictions to avoid re-entry (and we ensured the four officers remained on site until all access points were secured).
- Following the evictions, all residents were given a fresh set of keys to the building and were reassured that our client had regained possession of the properties.
- At all times, we ensured full advice and guidance was provided to our client to ensure all appropriate persons were in a position to make reasoned decisions and provide instructions and had a good understanding of the procedures involved.
A fantastic result and a very interesting case to work – the client was delighted with the outcome! A reminder that not only is it important to bring the correct claim and promptly, but also to ensure that the logistics are covered so that everything goes smoothly on the day!
At GK, our team are ready to provide guidance whenever needed. If you have a housing matter to discuss, feel free to contact one of our Key Contacts: https://www.greenhalghkerr.com/housing-recoveries/, or to contact us on 0333 200 5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.