How long are possession orders enforceable for?
Our experts are often asked, how long are possession orders enforceable for?
Under the Limitations Act 1980 (“the Act”), Section 24 provides a period of six years for the enforcement of a possession order from the time that it becomes enforceable. This means that from the date the possession order is made, the landlord has a total of 6 years to enforce it.
This limitation applies to suspended possessions orders also; there should therefore be consideration to this limitation period when considering seeking a suspended possession order based on conditions for the tenant to meet. Can the tenant meet the conditions of the suspended possession order within 6 years? If not, then it may be unwise to seek such order.
Section 24 of the Act specifically refers to the term “judgement”, which is an order of the Court, whether that is a possession order, or money judgement order for a debt (County Court Judgement or “CCJ”) for example. In Section 38 of the Act, definitions are provided for keywords in the Act. There is no definition provided for “judgement”; therefore, the term “judgement has to be taken as its ordinary meaning, being any enforceable judgement of a Court.
The policy underlying Section 24 of the Act is that the Claimant has to get on with enforcing the judgement, rather than the judgement hanging over the Defendant indefinitely (see Patel v Singh  EWCA Civ 1938.
However, the above does not alone answer the question, how long are possession orders enforceable for?
A landlord can, however, make an application to the Court seeking permission to enforce a possession order after the 6 years under Civil Procedure Rule (“CPR”) 83.2. This application would be made using the N244 form, and it would always be advisable that a supporting statement accompanies such application.
Obtaining permission is by no means a mere formality; the landlord will have to provide the Court with a valid reason why enforcement of the possession order was not undertaken within the six-year period.
The responsibility for demonstrating good reason and evidence to support their case sits firmly with the landlord, as was expressed by the Court in Patel v Singh  EWCA Civ 1938.
Valid grounds to seek permission of the Court to enforce a possession order outside of the 6 years limitation period may include delays in the administration of justice outside the control of the parties. In the case of National Westminster Bank Plc v Powney  Ch 339 , it took almost three years to determine an application to set aside the Courts judgement. The Court ruled that it would grant permission for a fresh writ to be issued outside the six-year period so the judgement could be enforced.
Permission may also be granted where the circumstances of the case have changed to such an extent that they are now “out of the ordinary”. Patel v Singh  EWCA Civ 1938 is very helpful in relation to how a Court should consider an application for permission to enforce a judgement outside of the statutory time limit.
Before the six-year limit expires
If a landlord has a possession order nearing the six-year limit, one course of action might be to apply to the County Court or High Court for a warrant or writ for possession. This allows the landlord plenty of time for this to be completed, as the warrant or writ for possession will be valid for 12 months once it is having been issued as per CPR 83.3(3). A Court has the power to extend a warrant or writ by a further 12 months under CPR 83.3(4).
Do these principles apply to money judgements?
The Court rules, legislation and case cited above applies equally to money judgement orders (CCJ’s).
If you wish to enforce a judgement out of time, you can contact our experts on 020 3902 2000 or complete our online enquiry forms for one of our experts to contact you. You can complete our enquiry form here.