Can private tenants stop the bailiffs

A court can't usually stop an eviction by bailiffs if you're a private tenant. In some situations you can apply to stop or delay an eviction.

Eviction step 3 - bailiffs

Get advice

Get advice as soon as you can if you're facing eviction from your home.

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

You can get advice from Shelter regardless of your income:

Call our emergency helpline for initial telephone advice

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

When bailiffs are needed to evict you

Your landlord cannot evict you from a private tenancy. They have to follow a procedure to evict you and get a court order.

Your landlord must:

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

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

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

Find out more about what happens when bailiffs evict tenants

Different rules apply if you are a lodger.

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 have this type of tenancy. Landlords normally use a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy. This must give you a minimum of 2 months' notice.

Mandatory grounds

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

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.

The most common mandatory ground is Ground 8. Landlords can use this when you owe 8 weeks' or 2 months' rent at both the time your landlord gave you written notice and at the time of the court hearing.

Find out more about the rules for evicting assured shorthold tenants and rules for evicting assured tenants.

When the court can stop the bailiffs

Discretionary grounds

Rent arrears and antisocial behaviour are examples of discretionary grounds for eviction.

It is not usual for private tenants to be taken to court on discretionary grounds but it does happen.

For the court to make a possession order for a discretionary ground, it must be satisfied that your landlord both proved its case and that it is reasonable to make an order.

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 can apply to the court to ask for the bailiffs to be stopped. If the court decides to consider your application, there is usually a short court hearing. This could be on the same day that you apply. At the hearing, you must explain to the court why it would be reasonable to stop the eviction.

Telling the court you will be homeless isn't enough to stop the bailiffs. The court considers reasons related to why you were taken to court. For example, information about your earnings or a new job is relevant if you are being evicted for rent arrears.

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

Find out about stopping eviction by bailiffs.

If you weren't able to attend the 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 lose your home.

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 cancel 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 an order for possession had you been there

Apply to the court using form N244.

Section 21 notice: when there was no court hearing

You may be able to get a possession order cancelled (set aside) if:

  • you are an assured shorthold tenant
  • your landlord served a Section 21 notice
  • there was no hearing because the court made a decision based on the documents provided

You must have a good reason why the court should not have made a possession order. This could be because the Section 21 notice is not valid.

Apply to the court using form N244 within 14 days of getting the possession order.

If your tenancy started before 1989

You could be a regulated tenant or fair rent tenant if you have a tenancy that started before 15 January 1989. This is a long-term tenancy type that gives you strong tenancy rights.

Most regulated tenants are taken to court for discretionary grounds such as rent arrears.

Find out more about eviction from a regulated tenancy.

When the courts can delay eviction

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

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

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

The maximum delay is 6 weeks. This runs from the date the court made the possession order telling you to leave. For example, if 3 weeks have already passed by the time you apply to the court, you can only ask the court to delay your eviction for a further 3 weeks.

Court costs

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.

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.

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

Rent payments

Until you move out or are evicted, you must pay your rent or use and occupation charges.

If you claim housing benefit, this should continue until you actually leave the property.

How to ask the court stop or delay the bailiffs

Apply to the court using form N244. There is a fee to pay. You may not have to pay this if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.

See court leaflet EX160A for details.

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 are being asked to leave on
  • conditions the court has ordered that you comply with

How to ask your landlord to stop the bailiffs

Ask your landlord to let you stay in your home. If the problem is rent arrears, your landlord might agree if you repay them or show that you can do so soon. Get any agreement with your landlord in writing if you can.

Your landlord can ask the court to stop the bailiffs by writing to them to say that they want to withdraw the warrant for possession. Or your landlord can write to the court saying they do not oppose your application to stop the bailiffs.

Check with the court that the bailiffs' visit is cancelled. Don't 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.

Find out more about stopping eviction by bailiffs.

Last updated 04 Mar 2015 | © Shelter

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