This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Accelerated possession procedure

This content applies to England

The accelerated possession procedure can only be used to recover possession under section 21 Housing Act 1988.

What is the accelerated possession procedure?

As there is normally no defence to a claim for possession on the basis of a section 21 notice, landlords can recover possession more quickly by avoiding the need for a hearing in cases where the claim is not disputed. The accelerated possession procedure (sometimes known as the fast-track possession procedure) can only be used to recover possession, it does not permit any other claim, such as for rent arrears.[1]

For information about the section 21 notice procedure see the page Notices: Assured shorthold tenancies.

Conditions

When applying the accelerated possession procedure, the following conditions must be fulfilled:[2]

  • the tenancy is the subject of a written agreement, or follows a tenancy that was the subject of a written agreement
  • the tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989
  • the assured shorthold tenancy does not follow an assured tenancy and complies with sections 19A and 20(1)(a)-(c) of the Housing Act 1988
  • for tenancies commencing prior to 28 February 1997, a valid pre-tenancy (section 20) notice was served in accordance with the Housing Act 1988
  • the landlord must have served a written notice requiring possession in accordance with section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

If the tenancy is a demoted assured shorthold tenancy, only the last condition need be satisfied.

Applications

The landlord must make the application using form N5B.[3] The landlord must verify that the facts outlined in the form are true.

The form lists the documentation that must be provide in support of the application. The landlord must attach the documents to the application and file all documents in the county court. The court will then serve the defendant(s) with the application and attachments.

Where a defence is submitted

Where a tenant wishes to oppose an application, s/he must complete form N11B and file it within 14 days.[4] The court will then serve the landlord with a copy of the defence and refer the application to the judge for consideration. The judge must fix a hearing if s/he is not satisfied that:[5]

  • the prior notice and/or notice requiring possession were served
  • the service of the application was carried out correctly, or
  • the landlord has established that s/he is entitled to recover possession under section 21 and the tenant has no defence to the claim.

Human rights defences

When the landlord is a public authority, the Supreme Court has held that the eviction of a tenant is an interference with the right to respect for her/his home under Article 8 of the ECHR and that the county court has the power to assess the proportionality of making an order for possession, in particular against introductory, non-secure and a local authority demoted tenants. The Court has made it clear that in most cases where the tenant has no statutory or contractual protection and there is an entitlement under domestic law to possession, there will be a very strong case for saying that the order for possession would be proportionate, but in some cases there may be factors that tell the other way.[6]

Private registered providers of social housing (PRPSHs) are not always treated as public authorities, however where the nature of their functions are such that their actions are of a public nature, their acts are open to a challenge on public law grounds. The Court of Appeal held that in most cases this will include the act of terminating a tenancy.[7] Currently it is uncertain whether assured shorthold tenants of PRPSH's can also raise such a defence, and if the county court states it does not have the power to hear a defence, it should be asked to adjourn the claim for possession pending an application for judicial review.

An assured shortold tenant of a private landlord seeking possession under section 21 is not entitled to raise an Article 8 defence to prevent or delay the possession claim, and where a private landlord is entitled to mandatory possession the court does not have power to consider the proportionality of making the possession order.[8]

For more information see Public law and human rights defences.

Retaliatory eviction

Restrictions are placed on the service of a valid section 21 notice when a landlord served the notice:

  • during the six-month period following service of a 'relevant notice' by the local authority
  • following a written complaint from an assured shorthold tenant about the condition of the property and the local authority has later served a 'relevant notice'.

For details see Restrictions on use of section 21

Where the local authority has not yet decided whether to serve a relevant notice, the tenant should explain in the defence form that this is a case of retaliatory eviction and ask for the case to be listed for a hearing.

Where a defence is not submitted

If the tenant fails to return the form within 14 days, and so does not submit a defence, the landlord may file a written request for a possession order. The judge will then consider the evidence in the landlord's application and either make an order or fix a hearing date. The court can set aside, vary, or confirm an order for possession made without a hearing.[9] Advisers will need to rely on this rule where they have identified a defence but the tenant has not filed a reply to the claim, and the landlord has obtained a possession order.

Tenants can seek postponement of possession on the ground of exceptional hardship.[10] In such a case, the judge may direct a hearing of the issue that must be held before the date on which the tenant is to give up possession. The judge can vary the date specified on the possession order if ordering possession on that date would cause exceptional hardship, but the judge cannot allow longer than a maximum period of six weeks from the date of the order.[11]

[1] Civil Procedure Rules 55.11(1).

[2] Civil Procedure Rules 55.12.

[3] Civil Procedure Rules 55.13.

[4] Civil Procedure Rules 55.14.

[5] Civil Procedure Rules 55.16(1)(b).

[6] Manchester CC v Pinnock [2010] UKSC 45; Hounslow LBC v Powell: Leeds CC v Hall: Birmingham CC v Frisby [2011] UKSC 8.

[7] R (on the application of Weaver) v London Quadrant Housing Trust and Equality and Human Rights Commissioner (Intervenor) [2009] EWCA Civ 587.

[8] ECtHR - FJM v United Kingdom, App No 76202/16 (29 November 2018); McDonald (by her litigation friend) v McDonald and others [2016] UKSC 28.

[9] Civil Procedure Rules 55.19.

[10] Civil Procedure Rules 55.18.

[11] s.89 Housing Act 1980.

Back to top