Can housing association tenants stop the bailiffs

A court can sometimes stop an eviction by bailiffs if you're a housing association tenant. Find out how to apply to stop or delay an eviction.

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When bailiffs can evict you

Court bailiffs can evict you from your home if a court has issued a warrant of possession, commonly called a bailiff's warrant.

Your landlord has to apply to the court to ask for a bailiffs warrant. Your landlord can apply for a bailiffs warrant if the court made:

  • a suspended possession order and you have broken the conditions set by the court
  • an outright possession order and you've stayed beyond the date the court ordered you to leave

These court orders will have been made at a previous court hearing.

When the court can stop the bailiffs

In most cases, the court has the power to stop the bailiffs coming to evict you if you are a housing association tenant.

Most housing association tenants are taken to court for discretionary grounds such as rent arrears. The court can decide to stop the bailiffs if your landlord has taken you to court to evict you for a discretionary ground.

When the court made a possession order based on discretionary grounds, it was because it was satisfied that your landlord had proved a legal reason to evict you and that it was reasonable to have made an order.

The usual way for the court to stop the bailiffs is by suspending the bailiffs warrant. In some cases, the court may also need to change the terms of court orders made in the past.

You have to apply for a bailiffs warrant to be suspended. The court decides if it is reasonable for you to lose your home considering all the circumstances of your case.

The bailiffs can't evict you if a court decides to suspend a bailiffs' warrant.

When the court can't stop the bailiffs

Illegal subletting

The court can't stop the bailiffs if the housing association takes you to court because you rented out (sublet) all your home.

Mandatory grounds

The court can't stop the bailiffs coming if a court made a possession order on a mandatory ground.

Examples of mandatory grounds include for:

  • antisocial behaviour when you or a household member have already been convicted of an antisocial behaviour offence in the courts
  • rent arrears using 'Ground 8'

Ground 8 can be used if you owed 8 weeks or 2 months' rent both when your landlord gave you written notice and on the date of the court hearing.

Asking to delay eviction

Even if the court can't stop the bailiffs, it can sometimes delay eviction by bailiffs for a short time. The court can only delay the eviction if you would suffer exceptional hardship and you hadn't told the court about this before.

The maximum delay is 6 weeks. This runs from the date of the court hearing when the possession order was made. If 4 weeks have already passed, you can only ask the court to delay your eviction for a further 2 weeks.

Apply to the court using form N244 to ask for the bailiffs to be delayed.

How to stop the bailiffs coming

Apply to the court to suspend the warrant

You must apply to the court using form N244.

There is a fee of £50. You may not have to pay this if you claim certain benefits or have a low income. See court leaflet EX160A for details.

Set out on the form that you want the bailiffs' warrant to be suspended and your reasons why it should be. For example explain why you weren't able to keep to the conditions set out on the original court order and why you will be able to in the future.

Apply to change the possession order

On the same N244 form you may also need to ask the court to vary the possession order to

  • change the conditions the court has ordered that you comply with, such as reducing the amount you have to pay each week to bring down your rent arrears
  • vary an outright order to a suspended order

Where there is an outright order and the court has the power to stop the bailiffs coming, you should always ask the court to convert it to a suspended order.

What to say to the court

There will be a short court hearing to decide whether to stop the bailiffs. This could even be on the same day that you apply.

At the hearing explain to the judge why it would be reasonable to stop the eviction. Telling the judge you will be homeless will not be enough.

The judge wants to hear matters that are connected to the reason why you are being evicted. Take any evidence you have to show why for example you couldn't make all your rent payments before, but you can from now on.

What the court can decide

Often the court decides to postpone the bailiffs for a short period while you try to put things right. For example, the court could allow you time to sort out housing benefit or universal credit delays.

Sometimes the court sets conditions such as paying an amount each week towards your rent arrears. If you break the conditions, you could face eviction by bailiffs again.

The court can also decide to let the eviction go ahead.

How to ask the housing association if you can stay

Contact your housing office to see if they will let you stay. Tell them about any relevant change in your circumstances. For example, you can show you have reduced your rent arrears or have a new job which means you can make regular extra payments.

Get any agreement in writing if you can.

Your housing officer may agree to tell the court to say that they want to withdraw the warrant for possession

Don't assume the bailiffs won't come just because your housing officer says you can stay. Check with the court that the bailiffs' visit is cancelled.

Sometimes the housing officer may say that they will not challenge your application to stop the bailiffs. You must still apply to the court for this to happen.

If the bailiffs visit isn't cancelled or your housing officer doesn't agree to stop the bailiffs, you'll have to apply to the court to suspend the bailiffs' warrant using court form N244.

Costs of staying in your home

You have to pay your rent or use and occupation charges until you move out or are evicted. Any housing benefit should continue until you actually leave the property.

You may also have to pay the housing association's court fees including the costs of applying for bailiffs to evict you. This will normally be added to any rent arrears.

Unless you claim certain benefits or have a low income, you have to pay a fee to apply to the court to stop the bailiffs coming.

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

Last updated 26 Apr 2017 | © Shelter

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