Can council tenants stop the bailiffs

A court can often stop eviction by bailiffs for council tenants.

When the court can stop the bailiffs

A court can stop the bailiffs from evicting council tenants by suspending a bailiff's warrant.

The judge can decide to do this if you can show that stopping the eviction would be reasonable.

For example if:

  • you agree to pay back rent arrears
  • someone who caused antisocial behaviour in your household has left

The court can only stop your eviction if the reason you are being evicted is on discretionary grounds.

When the court can't stop the bailiffs

It's easy for you to be evicted if you are an introductory council tenant. The court can't usually stop the bailiffs.

For other council tenants, the court can't stop the bailiffs if you are being evicted on a mandatory ground. Councils don't often evict tenants on mandatory grounds.

Examples of mandatory grounds include:

  • your council has demolition plans for the property
  • a household member has been convicted of an antisocial behaviour offence

You can be evicted for subletting your whole home to other tenants.

How the court stops the bailiffs

The court usually stops the bailiffs by suspending the bailiffs' warrant.

The court can only stop the bailiffs if:

  • you ask them to or
  • the council agrees that you can stay in your home and withdraws its application

Suspending the bailiffs' warrant

The courts can only decide to suspend the bailiffs' warrant if you are being evicted on a discretionary ground and can show that stopping the eviction is reasonable.

For example, the judge may accept that you will keep to conditions such as:

  • repaying arrears when you couldn't before
  • ensuring that family members who caused antisocial behaviour don't return

The court can sometimes suspend the bailiffs' warrant for a short period - for example, to give you time to:

  • sort out housing benefit problems which have caused you to fall behind in your rent
  • allow universal credit payments to begin.

Negotiating with your council

The council may agree to withdraw its application to the court. This means eviction by bailiffs can be stopped.

Reasons that your council may do this include:

  • you agree to pay rent arrears and meet your future rent payments
  • you've fixed damage that you caused at the property

Sometimes, your housing officer may say that the council will not challenge your application to stop the bailiffs.

You should:

  • get any agreement in writing
  • always check with the courts that your council has formally withdrawn the application for the bailiffs' warrant
  • apply to the courts to stop the bailiffs if the bailiffs' visit hasn't been cancelled

Asking for a possession order to be changed

You may also need to ask the court to change the possession order.

This means you are asking the court to change:

  • conditions in a suspended possession order - such as reducing the amount you pay in rent arrears repayments
  • an outright possession order to a suspended possession order

How to ask the courts to stop the bailiffs

Use form N244 and guidance to apply to the courts to stop the bailiffs.


Last updated 26 Mar 2019 | © Shelter

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