Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England
Updated 13 February 2023
Applies to England
© Crown copyright 2023
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Who is this guide for?
This guide is for people who are letting a house, flat or any part thereof in England to tenants in the private rented sector while living in another property. This guide is focused on landlords letting to tenants on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or an Assured Tenancy.
This guide will help you to understand what rights and responsibilities you have as a landlord when you need to use the courts to take possession of your property.
This guide does not cover leasehold, those who are on a licence to occupy (for example, those who do not have an exclusive right to occupy a property, or who live in tied accommodation related to their employment), holiday lets or ‘resident landlords’ who let to lodgers.
Separate guidance is available for social landlords in England who need to use the courts to take possession of their property.
Separate guidance has been published about the possession action process in Northern Ireland , Scotland and Wales.
1. An overview of the possession action process
Before taking steps to recover possession of your property, you should consider discussing any underlying problems with your tenant, either directly or through a mediation service, and try to resolve these without recourse to court action. This could save you time and money. See Part 2 for more information and advice on how to resolve problems with your tenant without needing to go to court.
Stage 1: Serve a notice seeking or requiring possession
Give your tenant a section 8 or section 21 Housing Act 1988 notice, specifying the date by which you would like your tenant to leave your property.
Stage 2: Make a possession claim
If your tenant does not leave by the date specified in the notice, you can apply to the court for a possession order. You must attach evidence explaining how the coronavirus pandemic has affected you and/or your tenant and/or their dependants.
The tenant can submit a defence to the court. In the defence, the tenant may put forward legal reasons why a possession order should not be made, the tenant may put forward a counterclaim, or the tenant may ask for extra time to vacate due to extreme hardship. If a defence is received, the court will send you a copy.
If your claim is based on a section 21 notice and you have used the court’s ‘accelerated procedure’, the judge can consider the claim documents, and any defence received, and make a possession order without a hearing taking place.
Stage 3: Before the hearing
The court will give you a date for the hearing and provide you with any further directions as necessary. You will need to send the court an electronic copy of all of the case documents.
Stage 4: Attend the possession hearing
There will be a possession hearing at which a judge will decide whether to make a possession order or give other case management directions.
Stage 5: Apply for a Warrant or writ of possession
If a possession order was granted and your tenant does not leave by the date specified in the order, you can apply to the court for a warrant or writ of possession. The tenant can apply to suspend the warrant or writ. A county court bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) will enforce the warrant or writ and carry out the eviction. The bailiff or HCEO must usually provide at least 14 days’ notice of the eviction date to you and your tenant.
How long will the court process take?
Landlords can start court action as soon as the notice period ends. The target time for a possession case to be listed for a hearing, where this applies, is 8 weeks. However, the overall timeliness of a case will vary dependent on individual circumstances, for example if your tenant raises a defence or there is an error with your claim. Most cases do not progress through all 5 stages; for example, the tenant may vacate the property voluntarily following the outcome of the possession hearing, meaning that it is not necessary to apply for a warrant to enforce a possession order.
Seeking possession through the courts should only be used if and when you have tried all other means of resolving your situation.
We encourage you to engage with your tenant as early as possible to seek resolution of the issue and explore what can be achieved in terms of assisting your tenant to access benefits, or a discretionary housing payment, or agreeing a repayment plan, as appropriate.
For more information, please see below sections Do you need to take court action?, What to do if your tenant is in rent arrears and What to do if your tenant is engaging in anti-social behaviour.
2. Do you need to take court action?
The majority of tenants abide by the terms of their tenancy agreement and pay their rent on time. Most tenancies end with the agreement of the landlord and tenant without the need to go to court. If you want your tenant to leave your property because your circumstances have changed or they have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, you must follow strict procedures. If you do not, you may be guilty of illegally evicting or harassing your tenant.
Seeking possession through the courts should only be used if and when you have tried all other means of resolving your situation. If you use the county court enforcement process, claiming possession through the court will cost between £400 and £500, not including legal fees, and will take time to resolve.
Wherever possible, you should ensure that you pursue other options to resolve your situation first. This will most likely be quicker and cheaper. You should communicate with your tenant directly as early as possible to discuss problems such as rent arrears or anti-social behaviour as openly and frankly as possible, and to try to find a solution which works for you both. For more information, see the sections in this guidance on ‘What to do if your tenant is in rent arrears’ and ‘What to do if your tenant is committing anti-social behaviour’. We have also worked with the National Residential Landlords Association to produce a guide for landlords on how to manage arrears and avoid possession.
Where possible and appropriate, we would encourage landlords to consider alternative dispute resolution such as mediation to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve disputes, without the matter needing to go to court. There are several services available in the market[footnote 1], such as TDS Resolution, PRS Mediation Service and Resolve by Flatfair, which specialise in resolving disputes in the private rented sector which you may wish to consider.
You may be able to access other services which facilitate the resolution of disputes between tenants and landlords. There is no single list of organisations or schemes offering dispute resolution in specific areas, but you can check by:
- asking your local council: some local councils offer free of charge specialist support for landlords who are considering serving a notice of possession (you can find your local council using this tool;
- searching online;
- asking a consumer advice service such as Citizens Advice; or
- consulting a legal professional
You can find more information about what mediation is and how it works at the Civil Mediation Council’s website, and you can also search for a mediator in your area.
You can also access the Housing Ombudsman Service for training on dispute resolution if you are a member.
If you use an agent to manage a property on your behalf, they should by law be members of either The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme. Your agent may have access to dispute resolution guidance and support from these schemes, and tenants can bring qualifying complaints about an agent to the schemes as an alternative to court.
We recognise that in some cases, making a claim for possession will be unavoidable, for instance if your tenant is building up rent arrears and refusing to communicate with you, or if you wish to move into the property and are unable to reach a voluntary agreement with the tenant to end the tenancy. However, it is important that court time is put to the best possible use. Where possible, you should use the court process only as a last resort.
If you do need to apply to the Court to claim possession of your property we would strongly advise you to seek legal advice before proceeding.
3. What to do if your tenant is in rent arrears
If your tenant has built up rent arrears, you should communicate with them in the first instance to gather more information about their personal circumstances and how they may be able to pay off their arrears.
An early conversation between you and your tenant can help to agree a plan if they are struggling to pay their rent. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent or agreeing a plan to pay off arrears over time or at a later date. It is likely to be cheaper to accept a slightly lower rate of rent, rather than arranging for a new tenant to move in.
You are also encouraged to consider mediation. Mediation allows an independent third-party to assist those involved to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute, without the matter needing to progress through court. This includes agreeing to a rent repayment plan. Mediation can be quicker and cheaper than court action. For more information, please see details of mediation services listed above in section 2.
You should attempt to resolve any issues with rent arrears with your tenant before issuing a notice or claim for possession. You may find it helpful to consult the guide we have produced with the National Residential Landlords Association on how to manage arrears and avoid possession claims.
4. What to do if your tenant is engaging in anti-social behaviour
In some circumstances, you may need to act because your tenant or tenants are committing anti-social behaviour. This could be more minor disruptive behaviour (for example against housemates or neighbours in a House of Multiple Occupation), or it could be serious and/or criminal. Whilst possession action is one method of resolving such issues, there are alternative courses of action which you may wish to consider prior to, or instead of, serving a notice requiring or seeking possession.
You should always act carefully when negotiating with tenants who are accused of anti-social or disruptive behaviour. Take care not to jeopardise your own or others’ safety and take advice from the appropriate source (for example, a solicitor, your local council or the police), if you are unsure how to proceed.
Some disruptive behaviours could be resolved through a frank and full discussion by the parties involved. You should talk to or write to your tenant in the first instance, informing them of the complaints which have been made against them and making clear that their behaviour is unacceptable. You should keep a record of the conversation. If this does not work, you must give the tenant a final warning and make a record of this.
Sometimes a tenant is not the right fit for the property, particularly in a House of Multiple Occupation, for example if they do not get on with their housemates. You may wish to discuss ending the tenancy by mutual consent. However, you must not harass or force the tenant to leave without following the formal possession process.
When responding to severe instances of anti-social behaviour, it may be worth bearing in mind that the police, local councils and other local agencies have a range of flexible tools and powers that they can use to respond quickly and effectively to anti-social behaviour, as provided by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. These include:
Civil Injunctions which are available to the police, local council and other local agencies on application to the courts and can impose restrictions or positive requirements on individuals who have engaged or threatened to engage in anti-social behaviour in order to prevent them from engaging in this behaviour;
Community Protection Notices which can be used by the police or the local council to deal with ongoing problems or nuisances which are having a persistent or continuing and detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality;
A Closure Power which the police and local authorities can use to close premises of which use has resulted in, or is likely soon to result in, nuisance and disorder; and
Criminal Behaviour Orders which can be issued by a court and impose restrictions or positive requirements on an individual convicted of a previous criminal offence, who has engaged in behaviour that has caused, or was likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress.
You may wish to read the statutory guidance for frontline practitioners on the use of powers to address anti-social behaviour.
You should consider contacting your local council or the police in the first instance. If a criminal offence, such as criminal damage or assault, has taken place you should contact the police straight away.
If, having tried alternative means of resolving anti-social behaviour being perpetrated by a tenant, you feel that you have no option but to seek possession, there are grounds for you to do so under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
Ground 7A, is for cases where serious anti-social behaviour has already been established in other court proceedings anti-social behaviour has a minimum notice period of 4 weeks (for periodic tenancies) or 1 month (for a fixed term tenancy).
Ground 7A is a mandatory ground, which means that the judge must grant possession if you can prove that the ground has been met.
Ground 14 is for nuisance or annoyance, or the illegal or immoral use of the property, and proceedings can be commenced immediately after the service of the notice.
Ground 14 is a discretionary ground, which means that you need to bring forward evidence to prove that the anti-social behaviour has taken place and, if the court is satisfied by the evidence, it will take all circumstances into account and will decide if it is reasonable to grant possession.
For more information about the notice periods which need to be provided when using the anti-social behaviour grounds, please see Annex A.
5. Stages of the possession process
Stage 1: Serving a notice of possession
You can give your tenant a section 8 notice if you have a reason which corresponds with a specific ground for possession; for instance, they have broken the terms of the tenancy. The grounds for possession are set out in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988.
Serving your tenants with a Section 8 notice
How to serve a Section 8 notice
To give your tenants a Section 8 notice, you must fill in form 3.
You can find the prescribed form 3 and accompanying notes at the Assured tenancy forms webpage.
Important – you must complete the form correctly. Use the guidance notes accompanying the form to help you.
You can get legal advice on how to fill in form 3 and how to give it to your tenants. The possession process in Court may be delayed if you do not fill out the form correctly. You may also choose to seek the advice of a professional association.
You need to specify on the notice the specific grounds you are using to seek possession of your property.
You can use mandatory grounds. These are grounds where the judge must order the tenants to leave your property if you can prove the ground. Examples include the grounds for 8 weeks’ rent arrears and convictions for anti-social behaviour.
You can also use discretionary grounds. These are grounds where the judge can only order the tenants to leave your property if you can prove the facts which correspond with the ground and the judge considers it reasonable to make an order. Examples include grounds for other breaches of the tenancy agreement.
Your section 8 notice will only be valid if you have given your tenant the right amount of notice on the date that the notice was served. Information about notice periods can be found at Annex A.
Serving your tenants with a Section 21 notice
If your tenant is an assured shorthold tenant, you may be entitled to an order for possession subject to serving a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
We would urge everyone to show compassion and exercise flexibility as far as possible given the current pressures some tenants are facing with the cost of living. We therefore encourage you to only seek possession where you have grounds to do so and have tried to resolve any issues with your tenant first. We strongly recommend that you only seek possession through a section 21 notice (without grounds) if there are no other alternatives to doing so.
How to serve a Section 21 notice
You can only use a Section 21 notice if your tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. You cannot use it if your tenants have an assured tenancy. You must use the section 8 process instead (see above).
You should use Form 6A to give notice if the tenancy was started or renewed after 30 September 2015.
Important: You must complete the form correctly. Use the guidance notes which accompany the form to help you. Form 6A and accompanying notes have been published on the Assured tenancy forms webpage. You can get legal advice on how to fill in Form 6A and how to give it to your tenants. The possession process in court may be delayed if you do not fill out the form correctly.
Your Section 21 notice will only be valid if you have:
- Given your tenant the right amount of notice on the date that the notice was served-this will be at least two months if the notice was served on or after 1 October 2021.
Important - The tenant may be entitled to more than a minimum of two months’ notice under the terms of a periodic tenancy agreement, where section 21 (4E) of the Housing Act 1988 applies. See the section 21 (4D) and section 21 (4E) box below.
Allowed at least 4 months to elapse, since the start of the tenancy, before serving the Section 21 notice.
Protected the tenant’s deposit in a government-approved deposit protection scheme and given the tenant information about how the deposit is held. You must provide the tenant with certain details about the deposit known as ‘prescribed information’. This includes details of the deposit protection scheme, confirmation of the amount held, your contact details and information on how the tenant can get their deposit back when they leave.
Obtained a licence for the property from the local council, if the property needed one.
- Started court proceedings in time. Where a landlord gives a tenant a valid section 21 notice on or after 1 October 2021, it can be relied upon to commence proceedings for:
- Six months from the date it is given to the tenant, where section 21 (4D) applies; or
- Four months from the date specified in the notice as the date after which possession is required, if section 21(4E) applies.
For more information, please see the section 21 (4D) and section 21 (4E) box below.
Provided the tenant with the right documents giving information about the property and their rights and responsibilities as a renter. This includes a valid gas safety certificate if there is a gas installation in the property, an energy performance certificate, and the version of the How to rent guide which was most up to date when your contract started or was renewed.
Completed the required repairs and allowed at least 6 months to elapse if you received an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action from the local council following a complaint made by the tenant.
- Repaid to the tenant (or otherwise properly accounted for) any prohibited payments that you may have charged them. The law says that you are only allowed to take certain permitted payments. These are set out in the Tenant Fees Act 2019 guidance for landlords.
Section 21 (4D) and section 21 (4E)
Section 21 (4D) applies where the tenancy granted is/was a) a fixed term tenancy or b) a periodic tenancy under the terms of which the tenant is entitled to no more than 2 months’ notice. Section 21 (4E) applies where the tenancy granted is a periodic tenancy under the terms of which the tenant is entitled to more than 2 months’ notice.
Providing proof of service
You will need to be able to be able to show the court that you have served notice correctly and given the right amount of notice. This will assist the judge when making a decision on whether to grant a possession order. You should always check the tenancy agreement to see what methods of service it allows you to use – the methods mentioned below are the most common.
Personal service on the tenant
If you are serving the notice on the tenant(s) personally for example handing it to them, then the best way to prove the tenants have been served with the notice is to have the tenants sign and date all copies of the notice (including your own). Alternatively, if they refuse to sign the notice but do accept the document, then you can fill out a certificate of service (N215) form and include that in any paperwork you send to the court.
Posting to the tenant
You can usually serve the notice by first class post or by another next day delivery service. Consider taking dated and timed photographs as evidence of posting. If you decide to use a tracked service, one that does not require a signature is best and you should retain the receipt. You can fill out a certificate of service (N215) form and include that in any paperwork you send to the court.
Leaving the notice at the property
It is always best to see whether the tenant is at home before putting the notice through the letterbox. If the tenant is present, you can serve the notice personally. If you are serving by posting through the letterbox, consider taking photographs or taking a witness with you. You can fill out a certificate of service (N215) form and include that in any paperwork you send to the court.
Keep a copy for yourself
You will need to provide a copy of the notice to the court as part of your application for possession. It is essential you retain a copy of the document for yourself. Take the copy once you have completed, signed and dated the notice.
You can fill out a certificate of service (N215) form and include that in any paperwork you send to the court.
If you deliver the notice by hand, consider attaching a handwritten note or writing on the envelope, explaining, for example, what the notice means, why you have served it and, where appropriate, whether you are willing to come to an agreement with your tenant in preference to commencing court proceedings. This may encourage the tenant to answer and respond.
You may also wish to consider informing your tenants about our companion guide, Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private residential tenants in England and Wales, which contains more information about the steps which a tenant should take when served with a notice seeking or requiring possession.
Stage 2: Making a claim for possession
If your tenant does not leave by the date specified in the notice, you can apply to the court for a possession order. For all claims, you must also provide a statement setting out what knowledge you have about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependants. This includes accelerated possession claims.
Standard possession claims
When using the online service
You can use the possession claim online service if you are claiming possession on the grounds of rent arrears, for example where you have used a section 8 notice and have specified one or more of the rent arrears grounds.
The service lets you fill in court forms online and see how the claim is progressing. You will need to provide a rent statement covering the preceding 2 years, showing what payments were due and received to demonstrate how the arrears claimed have accrued.
It costs £355 to issue the claim.
Contact the Possession Claim Online help desk if you need help or advice.
Telephone: 0300 123 1057 - Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm
When using the paper-based application process
Fill in the paper standard possession claim form (N5) and the particulars of claim form (N119) and post, email or deliver it to the county court that deals with housing cases for the area in which your tenant’s property is located. You can find the details online on the Courts and tribunal website.
You can use this method if:
- you have served a Section 8 notice on grounds other than rent arrears, for example anti-social behaviour or other breach of tenancy, or
- you have served a Section 8 notice on rent arrears grounds but do not have access to or do not wish to use on-line facilities, or
- you have served a Section 21 notice but the tenant owes you rent and you want the court to order possession and make a money order at the same time
It costs £355 to apply. To the pay the fee you can:
- Send a cheque made payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’ to the court with your completed paperwork.
- Pay by credit or debit card over the phone, or at the public counter of the court to which you sent the possession claim form. You can arrange this with the court directly by finding the phone number and address of the court or provide the court with a telephone number to take payment over the telephone.
- If you have set up a fee account with HM Courts and Tribunal Service, you can ask the court to charge the fee to this account.
Fee accounts provide improved fee management and court application processing and are designed for customers who pay more than 12 court fees per year. Find more information about setting up a fee account.
You must provide the court with an additional copy of each of the documents you are submitting, for the court to serve upon your tenant, and you should keep a copy for yourself. If the tenancy is in joint names, you will need to send an additional copy for each person.
Important – you must complete the forms accurately and include the correct evidence to support your claim. If you do not, you may have to start the process again.
What happens next
The court will send you notice that the claim has been issued, and it will serve the claim upon your tenant, giving your tenant an opportunity to respond to the claim by submitting a defence. You should keep the notice of issue safe as it shows the claim number which the court has assigned to your case, which you will need to quote in all future communications/documents. It also gives you information about your next steps.
If your tenant submits a defence to the court, the court will serve you with a copy. The court will inform you of the date and time of the possession hearing.
Accelerated possession claims
You can apply for an accelerated possession order if your tenants have not left by the date specified in your Section 21 notice and you’re not claiming rent arrears. It costs £355.
If you want to claim rent arrears you can use either the:
- standard possession procedure, or
- accelerated procedure to get your property back, then make a separate court claim for the rent arrears.
How to apply
Download and fill in the form for properties in England(N5B) and send the completed form to the county court that deals with housing cases for the area in which your tenant’s property is located.
Include a copy of the completed form and of any documents you have attached to it, for the court to serve upon your tenant. If it is a joint tenancy, send a copy for each person. Keep a copy of everything for yourself.
Important: You must complete the form and notice accurately and include the correct evidence to support your claim. If you do not, you may have to start the process again.
What happens next
The court will send your tenant a copy of your application and will give them an opportunity to respond to the claim within 14 days. At the same time, the court will send you notice of issue of the claim. The notice of issue will give you the claim number which has been assigned to your case. Keep this safe as you will need to quote this number in future correspondence and documents. It will also inform you of the deadline given to your tenant for responding to the claim.
At the bottom of the notice of issue is a ‘written request for a possession order’ form which you will need to complete and return to the court at a later date if you wish to proceed with your claim (see below).
Your tenant may submit a defence to the court putting forward reasons why, in the tenant’s view, you may not be entitled to possession. In that case:
- the court will send you a copy of the defence
- the court is likely to fix a date and time for a hearing
- you may wish to seek legal advice
Your tenant may also submit a response to the court accepting that you are entitled to possession but asking for more time due to extreme hardship. In that case:
- the court will send you a copy of the response. If you agree, you can write to the court to let them know that you accept that the tenant should be granted more time;
- the judge may decide that the tenant should be given additional time to stay in the property, up to a maximum of 6 weeks, or may decide to list the case for a hearing.
If your tenant does not respond to the court within the time allowed:
- you should complete the ‘written request for a possession order’ form (the bottom half of the notice of issue) and submit it to the court; after that
- a judge will consider your claim and, if satisfied, will make an order for possession
Stage 3: What you need to do before the hearing
For section 8 and section 21 cases where you have used the standard possession procedure, there will always be a possession hearing.In accelerated section 21 cases, there will only be a hearing where a judge directs this to allow further consideration of the defence put forward by your tenant. In each case, you will receive the date of the possession hearing from the court, and any further directions as necessary.
At least 14 days prior to the hearing, you should email an electronic copy of all case documents to the court at the address provided, including the claim form and particulars of claim, and the tenant’s defence where one was submitted.
Stage 4: Possession hearings and orders
The possession hearing
Court hearings for possessions are usually held in the county court that covers the area where the property is located. You should let the court know as soon as possible if you have any special requirements, for example if you need extra assistance to access the building or engage with the hearing.
Before attending court, it is important that you check the website on what to expect when coming to a court or tribunal.
You should bring copies of all the paperwork relevant to your claim to the possession hearing.
At the court hearing the judge might:
- adjourn the hearing – it will be moved to a later date
- dismiss your claim – your claim will have been unsuccessful for reasons which the judge must make clear
- make an outright possession order – this means the tenant will have to vacate the property by a date they set depending on the grounds on which the order is made and the circumstances of the case as assessed by the judge.
- make a suspended possession order – this means the tenant will have to vacate the property if they do not comply with certain conditions which the judge will set out (further details below).
The judge may adjourn the case if:
- the judge decides that there is insufficient time to hear the case on the day
- the judge decides that more information is needed
- the tenant is unable to attend court for valid reasons, for example a hospital admission
The judge may dismiss the case if:
- you have not followed the correct procedure
- you or your representative do not attend the hearing
- the judge does not believe that the conditions of the ground have been proved
- your tenants have paid any rent that was owed
If the judge dismisses the case, you will not be able to apply for enforcement. If the tenant has incurred legal costs in defending the claim, the judge may order you to pay those costs. Depending on the reason for dismissal, you may be able to continue to seek possession, but you would have to start the court process again, and you may need to serve a new notice before doing so. It may be in your interests to seek legal advice before taking any further steps.
The judge can make different kinds of possession order.
Outright possession order
This order requires your tenant to leave your property by a date specified in the order. The deadline for leaving is midnight on the specified date.
The date will usually be 14 to 28 days after the court hearing, although it could be shorter or longer. Where the order is made on a mandatory ground or under section 21, and if it is a case where the tenant would suffer extreme hardship, the judge can allow the tenant up to a maximum of 6 weeks to leave your property.
Suspended and postponed orders for possession
A suspended order specifies a date for possession, but it also sets out conditions which your tenant must meet. For example, a condition might be that your tenant pay the rent plus a stated amount towards the arrears each month. So long as your tenant keeps to the conditions, you will not be able to enforce the possession order. If your tenant breaches the conditions, you can request the court to issue a ‘warrant for possession’ and the court bailiff will then arrange to carry out an eviction.
Postponed possession orders also permit a tenant to stay in the property so long as they abide by certain conditions; however, they do not include a specific date for when the tenant must leave the property. However, if your tenant breaches the terms of a postponed possession order, you can make an application to the court to get a fixed eviction date. The court decides whether there will be another hearing.
Possession orders with a money judgment
A judge can add a money judgment to any of the possession orders. This means your tenant owes a specific amount of money, usually made up of:
- the rent arrears
- court fees
- your legal costs
Appealing against the decision
You may be able to appeal to a higher court if you have proper legal grounds – for example, if you can show that the decision was wrong because of a serious mistake or because the procedure was not followed properly. If you think this is the case at the end of the hearing, you should ask the judge for the reasons for the decision made and for permission to appeal.
If the judge gives you permission, or if you continue to be concerned, you should seek legal advice urgently as there is generally only a 21 day window for bringing an appeal. A solicitor who specialises in housing law should be able to advise you whether you have grounds for an appeal and whether it is worth pursuing.
Stage 5: Warrants and bailiffs
You can ask the court for a ‘warrant for possession’ if your tenants do not leave your property by the date given in an order for possession, or do not abide by the conditions set out in a suspended order of possession. It costs £130.
If you originally issued your possession claim using the possession claim online service, you can request the warrant directly through that service. Otherwise, you must send the request and the fee to the court where the hearing was held.
Your responsibilities after a warrant has been issued
The court will confirm that a warrant for possession has been issued by providing a notice to you and your tenant.
Once bailiffs have been allocated to your case, the court will send you notice of the date and time of the bailiff’s appointment to repossess the property on Form EX96. The tenant will also be provided with the date and time of the appointment and will be given at least 14 days’ notice.
You must confirm the appointment by completing and returning the tear off slip on the EX96 form. You may also be asked to complete a risk assessment form (EX97A) by the bailiff. Both forms are to arrive at the court at least 3 working days before the appointment date, otherwise the appointment may be cancelled.
When filling out the risk assessment form, you need to let the bailiff know about any risks they may encounter when carrying out the eviction so that they are able to do so safely. The eviction could be delayed if you do not complete a risk assessment accurately and return it to the court before the bailiff appointment date.
You should attend the bailiff’s appointment, particularly as the bailiff may need instructions from you if the tenant does not cooperate. Wait for the bailiff outside the property and take a spare set of keys with you, if you have them. You should not enter the property until the bailiff has indicated you may do so. You may want to arrange for a locksmith to attend as well – to help the bailiff gain entry, if necessary, and to change the locks after the eviction.
However, the tenant may be able to apply to suspend the warrant (see ‘Delaying eviction’ below). If no application to suspend the warrant is made, or if the tenant’s application to suspend is not accepted by the court, bailiffs will proceed to carry out an eviction if the tenant does not leave before the appointment.
Transferring the warrant to the High Court
You may wish to consider applying for a High Court enforcement officer to evict your tenant. This will cost more, but you may get an eviction date sooner.
You can get a ‘writ of possession’ if you transfer the warrant from the county court to the High Court.
Before you transfer, you’ll need to apply for permission from the county court if you do not already have it. It costs £71 plus a further £71 to seal a writ of possession as well as High Court enforcement officer’s fees.
In both the county court and the High Court, a notice of eviction will be sent to you and your tenant at least 14 days before the eviction is due to take place.
Your tenant may be able to apply to the court for a ‘suspension’ of the warrant. The application will be listed for a hearing where a judge will decide whether it is lawful and reasonable to grant a suspension. The court will give you notice of this hearing and you should attend to protect your interests.
6. Further advice and information
National representative bodies
Help and advice
- Get legal advice
- Find your nearest court that deals with housing possession
- Citizens Advice
- Further information about landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities
- Money Helper
- Latest GOV.UK guidance about coronavirus
- The possession process in Wales
- The possession process in Scotland
- The possession process in Northern Ireland
‘How to’ guides
- The government’s How to let guide provides information for landlords and property agents about their rights and responsibilities when letting out property.
- The government’s How to rent a safe home guide helps current and prospective tenants ensure that a rented property is safe to live in.
- The government’s How to rent guide helps tenants and landlords in the private rented sector understand their rights and responsibilities.
- The government’s How to lease guide helps current and prospective leaseholders understand their rights and responsibilities.
Annex A: Minimum notice period lengths under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 in England
These grounds are applicable to assured and assured shorthold tenancies. For a full description of the grounds, see Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988.
If you are using multiple grounds for possession, the longest notice period will generally apply. For example, to serve notice using Ground 6 and Ground 8, they would need to provide at least 2 month’s notice.
There is an exception for the anti-social behaviour grounds 7a and 14; if either of these grounds are used, the notice period for the anti-social behaviour ground would apply. If both grounds 7a and 14 are used, the notice period provided under ground 7a will apply.
|Mandatory (judge must award possession if ground met)|
|1: Landlord wants to move in||2 months|
|2: Mortgage repossession||2 months|
|3: Out of season holiday let||2 weeks|
|4: Let to student by an educational institution||2 weeks|
|5: Property required for use by minister of religion||2 months|
|6: Demolition / redevelopment||2 months|
|7: Death of tenant||2 months|
|7a: Serious anti-social behaviour||4 weeks (periodic tenancy)
1 month (fixed-term tenancy)
|7b: No right to rent in the UK||2 weeks|
|8: Serious rent arrears at time of service of notice and possession proceedings||2 weeks|
|Discretionary (judge can decide whether to award possession, if ground met)|
|9: Alternative accommodation available||2 months|
|10: Some rent arrears at the time of service of notice and possession proceedings||2 weeks|
|11: Persistent late payment of rent||2 weeks|
|12: Breach of tenancy agreement||2 weeks|
|13: Tenant deteriorated property||2 weeks|
|14: Nuisance/annoyance, illegal/immoral use of property||None – proceedings may be commenced immediately after service of notice|
|14A: Domestic abuse (social tenancies only – where victim has permanently left the property)||2 weeks|
|14ZA: Rioting||2 weeks|
|15: Tenant has deteriorated furniture||2 weeks|
|16: Employment||2 months|
|17: False statement||2 weeks|
These include TDS Resolution and the PRS Mediation Service although other service providers may be available. ↩