Challenging a section 21 notice in court

You can usually get free legal advice if you're facing eviction.

Get advice as soon as you get a notice.

You can speak to a duty adviser before or at the hearing if the court arranges one.

Check your notice is valid

The court can only stop the eviction if there's a problem with the section 21 notice.

Check for things that could make your section 21 notice invalid.

Ask an adviser or the council to check your section 21 notice if you think there's a problem.

If your section 21 is valid

The court must make a possession order when the judge looks at your case. You may have to pay your landlord's court and eviction costs.

Your tenancy rights will continue until you move out or you are evicted by court bailiffs.

Dealing with the court paperwork

You will get letters and forms from the court. Keep them together in a file.

Check if it's the accelerated procedure

Most landlords use the accelerated procedure to speed things up as the court can make a decision without a hearing.

But there could be a hearing if the landlord's notice is not valid. Get advice as soon as you can.

Your landlord is using the accelerated procedure if you receive:

Your landlord is using standard proceedings if you receive:

Return your defence form within 2 weeks

Get legal help with the defence form.

You should explain why you do not think the notice is valid. The court cannot usually stop the process for other reasons.

It's very important to return your defence form with the accelerated procedure so the judge can decide if a hearing is needed.

The court hearing

With standard possession proceedings there is always a hearing. This will usually be at your local county court.

You should always attend.

The court will usually set the date and time of the hearing when they send out the paperwork. The hearing is usually 4 to 8 weeks later.

If you cannot attend the hearing, make sure:

  • it is for a good reason, for example sudden and serious ill health

  • you let the court know as soon as possible

Get legal help on the day

A court duty adviser can give legal help on the day of a hearing.

The court paperwork should tell you how to contact the court duty scheme.

Get legal advice before the hearing if you can.

The court decision

A judge makes a decision at the hearing, or by looking at the information they have.

The judge must give possession back to the landlord if the section 21 notice is valid. This is called an outright possession order.

If the notice is not valid, the judge must dismiss the case.

The judge can also ask you or the landlord to do something specific, like provide more information. This is called 'giving directions'.

If the judge makes an order

An outright possession order sets a 'date for possession'.

It will usually be 2 weeks after the decision is made. You can ask the court to delay the possession date for up to 6 weeks if it would cause you hardship to leave sooner.

This is not the same as the eviction date and you do not have to leave by the date on the order. But if you stay, your landlord can ask bailiffs to evict you.

You can apply to set aside a possession order made under the accelerated procedure if you can show that the section 21 notice was not valid.

You must do this within 2 weeks of getting a copy of the order.

If the judge dismisses the case

Your landlord may be able to start the eviction process again. They may be able to give you a new section 21 notice or use a different type of notice called a section 8 notice.

If you missed your hearing

You may be able to get a possession order set aside if you:

  • apply quickly

  • can show that there may be a problem with the section 21 notice

  • had a good reason for not attending, such as sudden or serious illness

If you disagree with a court decision

You can appeal to a higher judge called a circuit judge if you think that the judge who looked at your case got it wrong. For example, if they said the section 21 notice was valid and you do not think it was.

Where to get legal advice

A housing adviser or solicitor can:

  • check your notice

  • help with court forms

  • make you aware of any risks or costs involved

Last updated: 28 November 2022

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