Before the hearing
You’ll know your landlord is taking you to court to evict you because you’ll be sent court papers, including:
- copies of ‘claim for possession’ forms
- a defence form
- a date for your court hearing
The defence form is your chance to say why you have rent arrears and if you disagree with what your landlord put on the ‘claim for possession’ forms. You need to return it within 14 days.
You may have to pay extra court fees if you don’t provide information in the defence form and this results in a delay to your court case.
If you don’t attend your court hearing, it’s very likely the judge will decide you’ll lose your home.
The charity Shelter has advice on preparing for the court hearing.
During the hearing
If you haven’t received advice before, you can get free legal advice and representation in court on the day of the hearing. This is under the Housing Possession Court Duty scheme. Contact your local council or the court where your case is being heard.
If the scheme isn’t available in your area, check with the court whether there are other advice services. You can also check if you can get legal aid.
The charity Shelter has information on what happens at a possession hearing.
The judge’s decision
The judge could:
- dismiss the court case - no order will be made and the hearing is finished
- adjourn the hearing - the hearing will be delayed until later, as the judge feels a decision can’t be made on the day
- make an ‘order’ - the judge will make a legal decision on what will happen
The judge will dismiss the case if there’s no reason you should be evicted. This might happen if:
- your landlord hasn’t followed the correct procedure
- your landlord or their representative doesn’t attend the hearing
- you’ve paid any rent arrears
If the judge dismisses the case, you can stay in your home. If the landlord wants to evict you, they’ll have to restart the court process from the beginning.
Types of possession order
There are several different kinds of orders a judge can make.
Order for possession (or ‘outright possession order’)
This means you must leave the property before the date given in the order.
The date will be either 14 or 28 days after your court hearing. If you’re in an exceptionally difficult situation, you may be able to convince the judge to delay this for up to 6 weeks.
If you don’t leave your home by the date given, your landlord can ask the court to evict you by asking for a ‘warrant for possession’. If the court gives a warrant, you’ll be sent an eviction notice that gives a date when you must leave your home.
Suspended order for possession
This means if you make the payments, or obey the conditions, set out in the order, you can stay in your home. If you don’t make the payments, your landlord can ask the court to evict you.
This means you have to pay the landlord the amount set out in the order. If you don’t make the payments, action could be taken by the courts to recover the money, including:
- deducting money from your wages or bank account
- sending bailiffs to take away things you own
If you get into rent arrears after a money order has been made, your landlord can go to court again and ask for a possession order.
Possession orders with a money judgment
A judge can add a money judgment to any of the possession orders. This means you owe a specific amount of money, usually made up of:
- your rent arrears
- court fees
- your landlord’s legal costs
The money judgment won’t apply if you pay your arrears and the amount set out in a suspended possession order.
However, the money judgment will apply if you don’t pay the amount set out in the suspended possession order that’s linked to the judgment. If you don’t pay, the landlord may ask the court to carry out the instructions in the order and the judgment.