Tue 18 Aug 2015

Evicting travelling people from land

The school holidays are winding down in Scotland while those south of the border are now well underway; the weather remains wet and wild, interspersed with the odd welcome day of sunshine - it must be summer.

While some of us are thinking of hitching a caravan to the car and taking the kids touring round the British Isles, for others it's more of a lifestyle choice. I am of course talking about the travelling community.

Although most travellers are fairly well behaved, it’s fair to say that they can be something of a nuisance to landowners, particularly if the property is on the cusp of being leased or sold and the ability to deliver vacant possession is important. These days travellers seem to be well versed in the court processes required to move them on - so if you own property which is currently a bare development site or which has a large car park, then it's important that you have a basic grasp of what needs to be done and how long it's likely to take to move a group of travellers on from your site.

In very broad terms, this a two stage process. 

Stage 1  - first court order (usually ignored by the travellers)

An application is made to the Court of Session or Sheriff Court for a court order to remove the travellers from the property. The application should be accompanied by evidence of your ownership of the property, approximately when the travellers arrived, how many vehicles they have and a plan showing approximately where they are located within the property. 

If the application can be pulled together and taken to court early morning, then you can expect to receive the court order the same day.

The court order will give the travellers a notice period, typically 48 hours (you can ask for this to be shortened to 24 hours notice if you can give the court good reason for the urgency), within which to challenge the court order and put forward an argument in court that they are entitled to occupy the property. The court order is then passed to Sheriff Officers or Messengers at Arms who will serve it on the travellers at the property.

The first court order is rarely challenged, but travelling families are familiar with the court process and so will often not leave the property right away. It is therefore not uncommon to have to proceed to stage 2.

Stage 2 - second court order with powers to evict

Once the notice period expires, you trot back to court to advise that the travellers have not moved on and seek a second court order which entitles you to have them evicted from the property. 

Again, if you can get the application into court first thing in the morning, you can expect to receive your eviction order on the same day. The eviction order is then passed to the Sheriff Officers or Messengers at Arms who go on site and tow the travellers' vehicles off the property.

At this stage, it's useful to have someone ready on site to secure the property and to prevent the travellers from driving round the block and immediately coming back onto the property once the Sheriff Offers have left. Indeed, good site security is probably the best way to avoid the travellers arriving in the first place.

In truth, however, it is uncommon for a family of travellers to wait to be towed off site. They know roughly when the eviction order is likely to arrive and will usually leave under their own steam before the tow truck pitches up.

A refreshingly quick process

Subject to the availability:

  • of information to allow the court applications to be made quickly and
  • of Sheriff Officers to serve the court order(s) and to source the necessary tow trucks,

with a fair wind the whole process should take no more than 3 or 4 working days to complete. 

It is a fairly well trodden path and, unlike many court processes, it can be undertaken quickly and painlessly. 

If travellers do arrive on your property this summer, don’t panic. Get in touch with us and we can help you to recover possession of your property with minimum fuss.

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