Eviction for rent arrears
If you rent privately and have an assured shorthold tenancy, find out how to deal with rent arrears.
If you rent from the council or a housing association you can get help if you're having problems affording your rent.
If you have rent arrears, your landlord will probably try and evict you. This is called 'seeking possession'.
If they want to seek possession, most landlords must follow a certain procedure. This involves giving you a written notice.
Getting a notice doesn’t always mean you'll have to leave your home by the date it says. In most cases your landlord still has to get a court order before they can evict you and they can’t apply for a court order until the notice period has run out. The court order is called a 'possession order'.
If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order, the landlord will need to get a 'warrant of possession', allowing the bailiffs to come and evict you.
However, there are some types of tenancy where your landlord doesn’t need to get a court order to evict you. These include tenants who live in the same accommodation as their landlord. If you share accommodation with your landlord and they want to evict you, you should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If your landlord hasn't got a possession order yet, find out what to do if you're taken to court for rent arrears.
If your landlord is discriminating against you, or has in the past
You might be able to stop your eviction. Discrimination could be things like:
- treating you differently because of who you are
- sexual harassment
- not making changes you need if you have a disability
You might also be able to make a claim for compensation in court. If you win enough compensation, the court will use it to reduce your rent arrears. Check if your housing problem is discrimination to see if you can defend your eviction or make a claim.
If your landlord goes to the high court
Sometimes your landlord might ask the county court for their case to be transferred to the High Court. This could either be at the possession order stage or eviction stage. You’ll be told if this happens. Your landlord could then ask the high court to send bailiffs - if they do this, you might not be told they’re coming. It’s important that you get advice from a housing specialist as soon as possible. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.
If your landlord wants to evict you for rent arrears, in most cases they'll need to get a court order called a 'possession order'.
Once your landlord has got a possession order, it might give a date by which you have to leave.
If you’re a private tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord might have been granted a possession order without a court hearing. You’ll be told to leave the property no longer than 14 days after the order was granted, although it might be possible to ask for this date to be delayed under certain circumstances.
If there was a court hearing, your landlord might have been granted one of the following:
- an outright possession order
- a suspended possession order
- a postponed possession order
An outright possession order might have been granted for one of the following reasons:
- you weren’t able to persuade the judge that you can keep up your rent payments and pay back the rent you owe
- you have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy and you’ve been served a section 8 notice under ‘ground 8’ - find out more about section 8 notices
- you have a flexible tenancy and the fixed term has ended - find out more about being a flexible tenant
An outright possession order will say that you have to leave the property by a certain date. If you don’t leave by this date, your landlord will need to apply for a ‘warrant of possession’.
It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances might have changed or your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs claim might have come through so you can pay the arrears.
If your landlord was granted a suspended possession order, you’ll be allowed to stay in your home as long as you keep up the rent payments and pay back anything you owe. If you don’t stick to this arrangement, your landlord can apply for the court to issue a warrant of possession.
If the suspended possession order was made more than 6 years ago your landlord would first need to ask the court's permission to apply for a warrant of possession. Your landlord doesn’t have to tell you that they’ve applied for the warrant.
It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances may have changed or your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs claim may have come through so you can pay the arrears.
A postponed possession order is similar to a suspended possession order. It means you’re allowed to stay in your home as long as you keep up the rent payments and pay back what you owe. If you don’t stick to this arrangement, your landlord can ask the court for permission to evict you. They’ll have to go through another procedure first though.
This involves applying to the court for a possession date and then, once they've got this, applying for a warrant of possession.
The court must agree to give your landlord a possession date before they can issue a warrant. You can only be forced to leave the property once your landlord gets the warrant.
Before they apply for a possession date, your landlord will have to write to you first, at least 14 days before they make the application. They must:
- give you details of the arrears you owe
- give you notice that they are going to make the court application
- tell you your rights
If you don't think the amount of arrears the landlord says you owe is right or they have got other information wrong, you should reply to the landlord within 7 days.
For more about postponed possession orders, see you are taken to court for rent arrears.
It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances might have changed or your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs claim might have come through and you can pay off all the arrears.
If the court does grant your landlord a warrant of possession, under some circumstances, it might be possible to suspend or set aside the warrant.
If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order and your landlord still wants to evict you, they must apply for a warrant of possession from the county court. This is authority granted by the court for the bailiffs to evict you.
Coronavirus - your landlord can’t go to court to evict you
The government have temporarily changed the law around evictions. Your landlord can’t take court action to evict you for 3 months from 27 March 2020. If your landlord hasn’t gone to court to evict you, you won’t have to leave your home yet.
Your landlord can’t evict you without a court order.
You might still have to leave if your landlord went to court before 27 March 2020 and arranged for someone to enforce the court order. This might be a bailiff or a High Court enforcement officer.
Some bailiffs or enforcement officers might decide not to work because of coronavirus. It's a good idea to contact them to check if they’re going ahead.
If you think your eviction might be going ahead you should contact your nearest Citizens Advice.
The warrant will give a date and time for the eviction. You’ll also get a notice of eviction from the bailiffs with the date and time of the eviction. If your landlord asks the High Court to send bailiffs you might not be told they’re coming.
If you haven’t left by the date on the notice of eviction, the bailiffs will come to your home and force you to leave.
It’s against the law for your landlord to try to evict you without a warrant of possession. If this happens, call the police using 101. If your landlord is being aggressive and you don’t feel safe call 999.
If you don’t get a notice of eviction, you can apply to the court for the warrant of possession to be set aside, unless it was issued by the High Court.
You will have to think very carefully about whether to move out before the date of eviction.
You might want to give yourself as much time as possible to find somewhere else to live. If this is the case, you might be able to persuade the court to give you more time in the property before you have to leave. This is called asking to postpone the warrant of possession.
If you're going to be homeless after the eviction, it's possible the council will have to rehouse you. If you think the council may have to rehouse you, you shouldn’t move out until the council has confirmed they’re going to rehouse you in writing. This might stop them from finding you intentionally homeless. However, you should bear in mind that there are only a very limited number of circumstances in which the council does have to rehouse you, even if you are homeless.
You should check if you can apply for homeless help if you think you'll become homeless.
You might decide not to move before the eviction date if you think you have a good chance of persuading the landlord to let you stay on, or of persuading the court to stop the eviction.
You might be able to persuade your landlord to let you stay on in the property if your financial circumstances have changed, or your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs claim has come through and you can now pay back what you owe.
If you can’t persuade your landlord to let you stay, you might be able to persuade the court to stop the eviction if either of the following applies:
- you can now pay your rent and arrears
- your landlord hasn’t followed the procedures properly
You should bear in mind that the longer you stay on in the property, the more money you might end up owing.
If there are any further legal procedures, you might have to pay court costs, including those of your landlord. You might have to pay your landlord rent (called mesne profits) up until the day you leave, although this isn’t always the case.
If you’re thinking about staying in your home after you get a notice of eviction, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser. You can get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.
It might be possible to ask for the warrant of possession to be either suspended or set aside. If the court agrees to this, it would mean that the eviction couldn't go ahead.
If a court agrees for the warrant to be suspended, this would stop the eviction going ahead for an indefinite period of time.
If you want to apply for the warrant to be suspended, you’ll need to do this before the eviction takes place.
You’ll have to give enough information to persuade the judge that the warrant should be suspended. For example, if your landlord was given a postponed or suspended possession order, you’ll need to explain why you haven’t been able to stick to the arrangement you agreed to and what you’ll do in future to make sure you do stick to it. It's not enough to say that you'll be made homeless.
If you have a good reason for the warrant to be suspended, then it's worth applying to the court, even if it’s on the same day you are due to be evicted. You'll normally have to pay a fee unless you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
If you want to apply to suspend a warrant of possession, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser straightaway. You can get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If the judge decides to stop the eviction, you should contact the bailiffs office to make sure they know this.
If the judge decides that the warrant shouldn't be suspended the eviction will go ahead and you'll need to find somewhere else to live very quickly.
If the court agrees to set aside a warrant of possession, it's as if the warrant was never issued in the first place. You can apply for a warrant of possession to be set aside either before or after you’ve been evicted.
There are only a very few circumstances when a court will set aside a warrant of possession. These include where:
- the warrant was wrongly issued before the date on the possession order
- no notice of eviction was issued
- your landlord deliberately gave wrong information to the court or didn’t give them information they knew about, for example, about your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
If you want to apply to set aside a warrant of possession, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser. You can get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If your money situation has changed and you're struggling to pay your rent and other bills, use our budgeting tool to see exactly where your money goes each month. You could also read about dealing with your rent arrears or getting help with bills.