Information about what happens in a county court possession hearing for the eviction of a tenant.
What is a possession hearing?
At a county court possession hearing a judge decides if you should be evicted.
Where court hearings for eviction are held
Court hearings for eviction are usually held in the county court that covers the area where your home is.
The papers the court sends to you should tell you the address of the court.
The court may not be near where you live. If it's difficult for you to get there, you can apply to have a hearing in a more convenient court.
Hearings usually take place in a room called chambers. This could be the judge's private room or a courtroom.
Being taken to county court is a civil matter. It is not the same as going to a criminal court. You cannot be sent to prison.
What to do before you go to court
You receive documents from the court before the hearing date. Check these and complete and return any forms to the court before your hearing.
If you can, prepare notes of what you want to say at the hearing.
Collect any evidence you have. This could include:
- bank statements showing money in your bank account
- a letter about a new job or an increase in the hours you work
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
Get advice about eviction
Get advice from a housing adviser before your hearing.
Call the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
Anyone can call Shelter's free national helpline on 0808 800 4444.
For face to face help, use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser at a Shelter advice service, Citizen's Advice or law centre. Have the papers you received from the court with you when you speak to an adviser.
Most courts have schemes where there are advisers on duty to help people on the day of the hearing. Contact the court to ask about this.
How you know when to attend court
The court sends you a summons telling you when and where the court hearing is.
This also tells you the time your case will be heard.
What to do when you arrive at court
Try to arrive before the time given in the court papers.
When you arrive at the court, you'll need to find out where the hearing is being held. Find the court usher and tell them you are attending the hearing.
The usher is a court officer who deals with the administration of court hearings. The usher has a list of cases taking place that day and records when you arrive.
The usher tells you when and where your case will be heard. If you can't find the usher, the court office can tell you where the hearing is and where you should wait.
There are usually other cases being heard at the same time. The usher decides what order the cases go into court. It could take a while for your case to be called.
Who can attend the hearing?
You and your landlord can come to the hearing. You can both bring anyone such as a solicitor or adviser who is representing or advising you.
Members of the public are not allowed into your hearing. People can come to your hearing only if you agree.
Many courts have a duty adviser who may be able to give you last-minute advice. Ask the usher when you arrive if there are advisers on duty.
Procedure at the court hearing
Your case is heard by a judge. The judge checks that the people in the room are there for the correct hearing. The judge usually explains and helps you understand the court procedure.
Your landlord or their representative speaks first. You may be allowed to ask your landlord questions after they have spoken. Next, you or your representative can speak. This is when you can tell the court why you should not be evicted. Your landlord can ask you questions afterwards.
The judge may ask you or your landlord questions.
The judge makes a decision based on evidence from you and your landlord and on what the law says. 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.
Decisions the court can make
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