BEFORE THE HEARING: How will you know your landlord is taking you to court and trying to evict you?
You will receive official court documents which include:
- Copies of your landlord ‘claim for possession‘ forms.
- A defence form meant for the tenant.
- The summons date and venue for your eviction court hearing.
The defence form gives the tenant an opportunity to state why there is rent arrears. You can also say why you disagree with whatever your landlord put on the ‘claim for possession‘ forms.
It is important to provide any relevant information in the defence form. Failing to produce evidence could mean a delay in your court case and incur extra court fees. But, you must return your defence form to the court within 14 days.
Note: Failing to attend your eviction court hearing means the judge often decides you will lose your home.
What Happens During Eviction Hearing?
What happens if you have not received any legal advice so far? In this case you can get free legal advice and representation at the court on the day of the hearing.
The court may offer other advice services if the scheme is unavailable in your area. You can also check to see whether you qualify for legal aid in the United Kingdom.
Members of the public cannot usually attend a court hearing for tenant eviction. You must first agree for anyone to come to your eviction hearing.
Most courts have a duty adviser and the court usher will let you know if there is one on duty. Duty advisers can often give you last-minute advice before you go to chambers.
As a Rule The Judge’s Decision is Final
Eviction court hearings usually take place inside a room called chambers. In essence, the setting can be a private room of the judge or it can be a courtroom.
But, going to county court is a civil matter which is different to a criminal court. That means you cannot go to prison if you lose your case.
In most cases the decision of the judge is final. The judge could decide to:
- Dismiss the court case. That means no order gets made and the hearing ends.
- Adjourn the hearing. That means the hearing gets delayed until later because the judge feels unable to make a decision on the day.
- Make an ‘order’. That means the judge will make a legal decision on what will happen next.
There could be no reason you should get evicted and the judge may dismiss the case. As a rule this happens most if:
- Your landlord failed to follow the correct private renting eviction procedures.
- Your landlord (or their representative) fails to attend the eviction court hearing.
- You have since paid off any rent arrears to your landlord.
What happens to you if the judge dismisses the case? Dismissing the court possession hearing means you can stay in your home.
The landlord would need to restart the entire court process from the beginning if they want to evict you.
Different Types of Possession Orders
There are a handful of different types of possession orders that a judge can hand out.
Court Order for Possession (Outright Possession Order)
Terms of an outright possession order mean you have to leave the property before the date given in the order. Often the date will either be 14 days or 28 days after your court hearing. You may ask the judge to delay this for up to 6 weeks if yours is a case of extreme hardship.
What happens if you fail to leave your home by the date given? Your landlord can then ask the court for a ‘warrant for possession’ to get you evicted. An eviction notice gives you a date when you must leave your home. Failing to leave means your landlord can use bailiffs to evict you from the property.
Suspended Order for Possession
A suspended order for possession means you might be able to stay in your home. But, you must make the payments or obey any specific conditions set out in the order. Your landlord can ask the court to evict you if you fail to make the payments.
Court Money Order
Court money orders mean you must pay the amount set out in the order to your landlord. If you fail to make the payments the courts can take action to recover the money. Court action can include:
- Deducting money from your bank account or your wages.
- Sending bailiffs to take away personal things that you own.
Note: Your landlord can go back court and ask for a possession order if you get into rent arrears again.
Possession Order with Money Judgement
A judge has legal power to add a money judgment to any of the different types of possession orders. This would mean that you owe a specific amount of money and is usually made up of:
- Your rent arrears.
- Court fees.
- The legal costs of your landlord.
A money judgment does not apply if you pay your arrears and the amount set out in a suspended possession order.
But, a money judgment applies if you fail to pay the amount set out in the suspended possession order linked to a judgment. The landlord can also ask the court to carry out the instructions in the order and the judgment if you fail to pay.
Appealing Against the Court Decision
You can only appeal the court’s decision if you can show the judge made some error in the original possession hearing. You must ask the judge for permission to appeal after the original hearing ends.
What happens if you get permission to appeal? In this case you must apply without delay for an appeal hearing. Unless you qualify for financial help you will have to pay a court fee. In most cases it is best to get legal advice for this procedure.