Possession hearings

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 needs a court order to evict a tenant, but some people can be evicted without going to court. This is the case if you are an excluded occupier.

Use Shelter's tenancy checker if you 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 not be near 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 chambers. This could be the judge's private room or a courtroom. The general public is not allowed to attend.

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 is being held and let the usher know are attending the hearing.

The usher is a court officer who deals with the administration of court hearings. The usher has a list of the cases to be heard by the judges that day and makes 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 takes place.

The papers you have received from the court should tell you what time your case will be heard. There may be other cases being heard at the same time. The usher usually decides 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 is 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) can also 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 checks that the people in the room are there for the right claim. Your landlord (or your landlord's representative) speaks first. You may be given the opportunity to ask your landlord questions afterwards.

You (or your representative) 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 can ask you questions afterwards. The judge usually helps 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 makes 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.

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