Find out about the documents the court sends you if your landlord wants to evict you and how you can respond.
Why the court writes to you
The court contacts you because your landlord has started a formal legal procedure to evict you from your home.
Your landlord can ask the court for a possession order to evict you if you don't leave at the end of a correctly notified notice period.
The court normally has a hearing to decide what to do.
Documents sent by the court set out your landlord's claim and tell you when your case will be heard in court.
If you are a private tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord may decide to use a quicker route to eviction called the accelerated possession procedure. This can mean a court hearing isn't needed.
What the court sends you
The first documents the court sends are:
- a copy of your landlord's claim form and particulars of claim
- a defence form
Claim form and particulars of claim
The claim form and particulars of claim are forms that your landlord completes when they start court action against you.
The claim form says what kind of court order the landlord has asked for.
The particulars of claim sets out the details of your landlord's case. These may be set out on the claim form or be attached to it as a separate document.
You may also be sent copies of extra documents that your landlord wants the court to see. For example a full schedule of your rent payments or a statement by your housing officer about contact with you. These may be sent by your landlord or the court.
The defence form is a form for you to complete and return to the court. It allows you to:
- give the court an explanation of your situation
- provide reasons why you should be allowed to stay
- say that information from the landlord is wrong
Return the form within 14 days if you want to defend the claim. Your completed form helps the court decide whether or not to make a possession order.
Even if you don't reply during this time, you can usually explain your situation to the court at the hearing.
If you owe rent and your landlord started their claim online, you can reply online. The court explains this when it sends you the defence form.
Summons from the court
The court usually tells you on the front page of the claim form when and where the court hearing will be held. This is often referred to as a summons.
The court could send you the summons separately at a later date.
If your landlord uses the accelerated possession procedure, you will not be sent details of a court hearing.
If you send in a defence form, the court may set a date for a court hearing. The court should give you at least 21 days' notice of the hearing.
Challenge the case to evict you
Complete and return your defence form to the court within 14 days.
Use the form to explain why you disagree with any information your landlord has given about why you are being evicted, such as the amount of rent arrears.
You can also use the form to ask the court to allow you more time if the court does decide to evict you. You might want to do this if you have health problems or young children and can't easily find a new place to live.
Include evidence with your defence form. This could include copies of:
- receipts from the housing benefit department to show you have provided all the information they asked for
- award letters showing your entitlement to benefits
- letters showing you have a new job
- proof of payments into your rent account
- hospital letters about your health problems
Get help with defending the case
You may be able to get legal aid to help you defend an eviction case in you claim benefits or have a low income.
Contact a local advice centre if you need help with the reply form.
Use Shelter's directory to find advice centres in your area.
Get help in London
Call Shelter's London advice line on 0344 515 1540 for free housing advice in any London borough.
If you don't want to stay
You do not have to defend a case if you don't want to stay.
Check with your landlord that your tenancy has ended or you could owe rent to your landlord for a period after you have left.
You may be able to leave after the period in the notice from your landlord expires and won't be liable for any further rent charges. But you might need to get written agreement from your landlord that your tenancy has ended.
If you are applying as homeless to the council, it may not help you until the court makes a possession order and sends in the bailiffs. If you leave before this, the council could decide it doesn't have a duty to rehouse you in the long term.
Next steps: court hearing
Brenda's Story: 'The court process was not as bad as I thought'
Brenda, a lawyer and lecturer, lives with her two daughters and granddaughter in Manchester. The family rented a cottage but she was given an eviction notice after asking for repairs. She went to court to challenge the eviction notice.