Before a tenant can be evicted, most landlords have to get a possession order from the court. There is often a court hearing to help the judge decide whether or not the tenant should be evicted.
Does your landlord need a court order to evict you?
In most cases a landlord will need a court order to evict a tenant, but some people can be evicted without going to court. This will be the case if you are an excluded occupier. You will need to check what type of tenancy you have.
Where is the hearing?
Your landlord has to apply to the county court that covers the area where your home is. The papers you get from the court should tell you the address of the court.
In rural areas the county court may be many miles from where you live. If you think you will have difficulty getting there you can apply to get the hearing moved to a more convenient court. Talk to an adviser as soon as you can if you are in this situation.
Use Shelter's directory to find advice centres in your local area.
Hearings usually take place in what is called 'chambers'. This could be the judge's private room or a courtroom, but either way the general public is not allowed to sit in.
Being taken to the county court is a civil matter and is not the same as going to a criminal court. There is no risk that you will be sent to prison if you don't move out of your home before your landlord goes to court.
Going to court for a possession hearing
When you arrive at the court:
- find out exactly where the hearing will be held
- let the usher know you will be attending the hearing
The usher is a court officer who deals with the administration of court hearings. The usher will have a list of the cases to be heard by the judges that day and will make a note of when you arrive. If you can't find the usher, the court office can tell you where you should wait and where the hearing will take place.
The papers you have received from the court should tell you what time your case will be heard. There are often a lot of similar cases set to be heard at the same time and the usher may decide what order the cases are heard in, depending on who turns up at the court. You should arrive before the time given in the court papers but you might have to wait a long time for your case to be called.
Who will be at the hearing?
Your case will be heard by a judge. You and your landlord (and anyone such as a solicitor or adviser who is representing or advising you or your landlord) will also be able to attend.
Most courts have schemes where there are advisers on duty to help people on the day of the hearing. Ask the usher about this.
What will happens once the hearing starts?
The judge will check that the people in the room are there for the right claim. Your landlord (or your landlord's representative) will then speak first. You may be given the opportunity to ask your landlord questions afterwards.
You (or your representative) will then have the opportunity to speak. You can tell the court why you think you should not be evicted (for example because you have paid off your rent arrears) or why your eviction should be delayed (for example because you are having problems finding somewhere else to live). It is important to be clear about the reasons why you don't think you should be evicted. It's a good idea to prepare notes of the things you want to say at the hearing. Your landlord will be able to ask you questions afterwards. The judge will usually help you to understand the court procedure if necessary.
After you and your landlord have spoken the judge may ask either of you further questions.
Decisions the court can make
The court will make a decision based on the evidence you and your landlord supply and what the law says. There are different types of court order. The court may decide to:
- make an outright possession order
- make a suspended or postponed possession order
- make a money judgment
- adjourn the case
- dismiss the case.
If you do not understand the court's decision, ask the judge to explain what it means.
A copy of any order that is made should be sent to you after the hearing.