Can private tenants stop the bailiffs

Private tenant evictions by bailiffs are hard to stop, but you can ask to the courts stop or delay an eviction in some situations.

Eviction step 3 - bailiffs

When the court can stop eviction by bailiffs

Private tenants can sometimes ask the court to stop the bailiffs if you can show that you can fix the reasons for your eviction.

For example, if you're being evicted for rent arrears, you could show the courts that you can pay the arrears if you have a new job.

There is usually a short hearing if the court decides to consider your application. This could be the same day that you apply.

The court will stop the bailiffs if it thinks it is reasonable to do so.

Courts generally stop bailiffs by suspending a bailiffs' warrant. The bailiffs can't evict you if the bailiffs' warrant is suspended.

When the courts can delay eviction by bailiffs

The court can sometimes delay eviction by bailiffs even if it can't stop the eviction. 

Delay is the only option if you were issued a section 21 notice on a mandatory ground such as antisocial behaviour. 

Delay is possible if the court made outright possession order on a discretionary ground such as rent arrears.

The maximum delay is 6 weeks.

The court can only delay the eviction if you would suffer exceptional hardship after eviction and hadn't told the court about this before.

Forms to use to ask the court stop or delay bailiffs

Apply to the court to stop or delay the bailiffs using form N244.

Explain on the form that you want the bailiffs' warrant to be suspended or delayed.

On the same form you may also need to ask the court to vary the possession order to change:

  • the date you have to leave
  • conditions the court has ordered that you comply with (for example, the amount of arrears repayments) 
  • to set aside the possession order

If you couldn't attend the original court hearing

You may be able to get a possession order cancelled (set aside) if you weren't able to attend the hearing where the court decided you should be evicted.

Apply to the court as soon as you find out that a court order was made. Don't delay.

You can apply for the decision to be set aside if you:

  • had a good reason for missing the court hearing
  • did not delay applying to set aside the order after you found out the original possession order had been made
  • would have had a good chance of persuading the court not to make a possession order had you been there

Section 21 notice when there was no court hearing

You may be able to get a possession order cancelled if:

  • you are an assured shorthold tenant
  • your landlord served a section 21 notice
  • there was no hearing because your landlord used the accelerated possession proceedings

Check if you can set aside the order and stop the bailiffs. You will need a good reason to succeed.

When bailiffs evict you from a private tenancy

Your landlord must follow the correct procedure to evict you.

Your landlord must:

  • serve you with a valid notice to leave
  • get a court order that orders you to leave
  • apply to the court for bailiffs to remove you and your belongings if you don't leave

The bailiffs can evict you after a court grants a warrant for possession. This is usually called a bailiff's warrant.

Your landlord can apply to the court for a bailiff's warrant if:

  • the court made an outright order for possession and you stayed beyond the date the court ordered you to leave
  • the court made a suspended possession order but you broke the conditions set by the court

You don't have to leave until the bailiffs come.

When the court can't stop the bailiffs

Section 21 eviction

The court can't stop the bailiffs if you are an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord gives you a valid section 21 notice and gets a court order.

Most private tenants are assured shorthold tenants.

Mandatory grounds

The court can't stop the bailiffs if your landlord gets a court order using a mandatory ground for possession.

The most common mandatory ground is Ground 8. This means you owe 8 weeks' or 2 months' rent at the time your landlord gave you written notice and at the time of the court hearing.

If a landlord proves that a mandatory ground applies, the court must order you to leave by a certain date.

The court sets out its decision in a possession order.

Court costs

You have to pay a fee to apply to the court to stop the bailiffs unless you claim certain benefits or have a low income.

You may also have to pay your landlord's court fees, including the costs of applying for bailiffs to evict you. This is usually added to your rent arrears.

See court leaflet EX160A for details.

Find out more about fees and exceptions from HM Courts and Tribunals.

Rent payments

You must pay your rent until you move out or are evicted.

If you claim housing benefit or Universal Credit housing costs, this should continue until you leave the property.

Ask your landlord to stop the bailiffs

Ask your landlord to let you stay in your home.

You may be able to negotiate. If you have rent arrears, your landlord might let you stay if you arrange repayment.

Get any agreement with your landlord in writing.

Your landlord can ask the court to stop the bailiffs by:

  • writing to the courts to say that they want to withdraw the warrant for possession
  • writing to the courts to say they do not oppose your application to stop the bailiffs

Check with the court that the bailiffs' visit is cancelled. Never assume the bailiffs won't come just because your landlord says you can stay.

If your landlord decides you can stay, they might agree to give you a new tenancy agreement. If this happens the bailiffs can't evict you.

Get advice

Get advice immediately if you're facing eviction.

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person.

You may qualify for free legal advice or representation under legal aid.

Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 if you qualify for legal aid

Have your notice and court paperwork with you when you speak to an adviser.


Last updated 04 Mar 2015 | © Shelter

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