A possession order is a court order that ends your right to live in a property.
When a possession order can be changed
If the judge had a choice when making the possession order then it is possible to apply back to the court to make changes to it. You might be able to apply to:
- have the possession order set aside
- suspend or postpone the date for possession
- vary the terms of the order
Even if the date for possession has passed you may be able to apply to stop or suspend a possession warrant from being enforced by court bailliffs.
When a possession order cannot be changed
In some situations the judge has no choice about making an order and cannot change it once it is made, as long as the landlord followed the correct legal procedure to get the order.
This applies if you are an:
- assured shorthold tenant and your landlord has used the section 21 procedure
- assured tenant and your landlord has used a mandatory ground
- introductory tenant or demoted tenant and the council has followed the correct procedure
- occupier with basic protection
You may be able to appeal if you think the landlord did not follow the correct procedure and the judge made the order in error.
Get advice about appealing. Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.
Setting aside a possession order
You can probably only have the possession order set aside if it should not have been made in the first place.
This might be because you did not:
- receive the court papers
- know that you had rights to defend your case
- attend the hearing
- reply to the court in time, you had a good reason for this, and if you had been able to reply in time, there would have been a different outcome
Applications to set aside an order need to be made to the court. If you require help, get in touch with an adviser immediately. An adviser can help you complete the court papers and prepare a witness statement to provide supporting evidence as to why the order should be changed.
Changing an order if you did not attend the hearing
One reason for a possession to be set aside is that you did not attend the hearing. However some possession orders cannot be set aside even if you were not present when the order was made.
The court normally looks at several factors when deciding whether to set aside a possession order, including:
- whether you acted quickly after finding out about the possession order
- whether you had a good reason for not attending the court, such as illnesss
- whether you would have had a reasonable prospect of success if you had attended the court
- if it would it be unjust not to set it aside
- any other relevant matters
There are no clear rules to define acting quickly or what is a good reason for not attending the court. This is a complicated area of law, so get advice if you think this might apply to you.
Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.
Suspending or postponing the date for possession
If the possession order can't be set aside, the court may still be able to delay the date for eviction.
See our page on stopping the bailiffs and get in touch with an adviser for further information.
Changing the terms of a postponed or suspended order
Possession orders are often postponed or suspended, on condition that you keep to the terms of an agreement, such as repaying rent arrears in weekly amounts. You can ask the court to change the terms of the agreement in certain circumstances, for example if your finances have changed, making it difficult to repay the amount that was originally agreed.
The court won't automatically agree to change the terms of the order. It is less likely to agree if you have a bad record of rent repayments or have not kept to previous agreements. Speak to an adviser to get help with applying to change the terms of the agreement.
Stopping or suspending possession warrants
Making an application to the court to set aside the possession order does not automatically stop the court bailiffs carrying out an eviction.
It is always advisable to ask the court to stay or suspend any warrants at the same time as you apply for an order to be set aside or varied. If you know that a date has been set to evict you, you should also contact the bailiffs to tell them you have applied to stop the eviction.
Evidence to provide with any application to change an order
You should set out your supporting evidence (for example the reason you missed a rent payment, details about change in income, details of an outstanding housing benefit claim) in any applications you make to have the case re-heard, or for the possession order to be varied, set aside, or delayed.
Get help from an adviser to make sure you have provided all the evidence needed. You probably have to pay a fee for any application, although people claiming benefits or on a low-income can be exempt.
Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area.