Going to court for eviction
You’ll receive a letter from the court telling you the time and date of the hearing – this is called the ‘possession hearing’.
Coronavirus - if your landlord goes to court to evict you
Your landlord has to follow coronavirus guidelines and rules if they want to evict you – check if your landlord has followed the rules.
You should talk to an adviser as soon as possible if:
you get letters or paperwork from the court
bailiffs try to evict you
If your landlord started court action against you before 3 August 2020, they have to send you a letter before they can continue with their court claim. This letter is called a ‘reactivation notice’ – you can check what to do if you get a reactivation notice.
You can take someone with you for support, for example a friend or family member. They won’t be able to speak for you in court, but they can make notes of what people say.
If you’re defending your eviction because of discrimination you’ll need to follow some extra rules.
You can talk to a free legal adviser before the hearing – they’re called the ‘duty adviser’. If you can’t contact the duty adviser on the day of the hearing, tell the usher or the judge before the hearing starts – the judge might agree to delay the hearing.
What to tell the court
The court papers will include any evidence your landlord is using against you. For example, proof that you haven’t paid your rent or details of complaints from your neighbours.
Before you go to the hearing, read all the documents carefully to check your landlord’s claims are correct. If they’re not, make a note so you can tell the court why they’re wrong.
You should tell the court anything that shows you should be able to stay in your home.
You should take any evidence you have that proves your situation, for example:
- a copy of your tenancy agreement to prove your tenancy type or the terms of your agreement if your landlord got it wrong
- documents that show your financial situation, like bank statements, wage slips and letters about any benefits you get
- a letter from your GP if you couldn't pay your rent because you were ill and unable to work
Getting a decision from the court
You'll be told by the court whether you can stay in your home or if you have to leave - usually on the day of the hearing.
If you couldn't go to the court hearing
You’ll be able to find out the court's decision by calling them or speaking to your landlord. The court will also send a letter telling you whether you have to leave your home.
If you’re being evicted and you couldn't go to the court hearing for a good reason, you might be able to get the court to look at your case again. A good reason for not going to the hearing would be if you were in hospital.
The court could decide to ‘set aside’ a possession order - this means your case would be reheard.
They might do this if you:
- would have had a good chance of succeeding at court
- have acted quickly after finding out about the possession order
The court might arrange an urgent hearing if the eviction is due to happen immediately.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help asking the court to look at your case again.
If you can stay in your home
If the court accepts your defence, they could decide to:
- let you stay in your home if you meet certain conditions, for example if you pay your arrears - this is known as 'suspending' a possession order
- dismiss your landlord's case - this means you'll stay in your home and you won't need to meet any conditions
- adjourn the case on certain conditions - this means it will come back to court if those conditions are broken
You might have to pay court costs - the judge will tell you how much.
You can also apply to change a possession order later. For example, if the court has let you stay in your home as long as you meet certain conditions (like paying off your arrears), but you can't meet the conditions anymore.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need to change an order.
If you have to leave your home
You normally won't have to leave your home straight away - you'll get a notice from the court telling you when to leave. This is called an 'outright possession order'.
If you have nowhere to live
Your council might have a legal duty to help you find you accommodation.
You'll usually have 14 days to leave after getting the decision. The court might give you more time - in some circumstances, they can only give you up to 6 weeks.
You can appeal the decision if you can prove that mistakes were made in the hearing. For example, if the court didn't look at relevant information or used the wrong law.
You should keep paying rent while you're still in your home.
You’ll usually have to pay your landlord's court costs. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you can’t afford to pay them straight away. They might be able to help you come up with a repayment plan.
Suspending a possession order
You might be able to stop a possession order if your situation changes, for example if you start getting benefits and can repay your rent arrears. This is known as 'suspending' a possession order.
You won’t usually be able to suspend a possession order if your landlord used a ‘mandatory ground’ or reason to evict you. This is because the court has no choice but to evict you if your landlord proves a mandatory ground to the court.
You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you get a possession order and you want to suspend it.
If you don't leave your home
Your landlord will have to get a warrant for possession from the court if you don't leave your home by the date on the possession order. This means they can ask the court to send bailiffs to make you leave.
Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice straight away if you've been told bailiffs are coming to your home.
Bailiffs have to give you a notice of eviction with the date and time of your eviction. They have to give you the notice at least 14 days before they evict you.
You might be able to ask the court again to delay the date you'll need to leave - for example if you can now repay your arrears or you’re going to be homeless.
Your council might have a legal duty to help you find you accommodation. Check if you can apply for homeless help.