Council and housing association tenants: eviction for rent arrears

What the court can decide

Coronavirus update

The courts are dealing with evictions again.

Your landlord must still apply for an order to evict you. There is a backlog of cases and the eviction process takes time.

Bailiffs can't carry out section 21 evictions until after 21 February 2021 due to the lockdown.

Options available to the court

A judge looks at the documents and the evidence before making a decision. 

This will usually happen at the hearing.

There are 2 types of possession order:

  • suspended orders - which allow you to stay if you keep to conditions

  • outright orders - which set a date for you to leave your home

The judge could also delay or dismiss the case, either at the review or at the hearing.

A possession order should only be made on the review date if you've had legal advice and agree to this. 

It's rarely in your best interests to agree to a possession order on the review date, and your landlord should not pressure you to agree.

Suspended possession orders

suspended possession order means you can stay in your home as long as you stick to a repayment plan to clear the arrears.

The order says how much you need to pay and when. For example, £3.70 a week on top of your normal rent if you're on benefits or a low income.

You might not get a copy of the order for several weeks, so note down what you need to pay on the day of the hearing.

If you can't keep to the conditions in the order

Your housing association or council could apply for bailiffs to evict you if you miss or are late with payments.

Speak to your landlord immediately if you're worried you'll miss or be late with a payment.  

You may be able to apply to change the conditions in a suspended order if you can no longer afford them.

Outright possession orders

An outright order sets a date for possession. It's not the same as an eviction date.

Your housing association or council can apply for bailiffs to carry out the eviction if you don't leave by the date on the order.

It may still be possible to stop the eviction.

The judge is likely to make an outright order if:

  • you don't attend the hearing

  • you don't contact your landlord or the court

  • you don't pay your rent or agree a repayment plan for the arrears

The judge must make an outright order if your housing association uses ground 8 and you still have more than 2 months' arrears by the time of the hearing. They can't stop the eviction. Reduce your arrears below this level if you can.

When your case could be delayed

The judge could delay making a final decision. This is called an adjournment. 

Adjournments for more time

The judge may delay your case to give you more time to do something. For example, you can ask for an adjournment if you:

  • need more time to seek legal advice

  • need support from a benefits or debt adviser

  • are waiting for a benefits claim to come through

If your housing association uses ground 8, the judge can only order an adjournment if you request one before any evidence is heard.

Adjournments on terms

The judge can also delay your case on the condition that you pay your rent and make regular repayments towards the arrears. They might do this if you only owe a small amount of rent.

You shouldn't have to go back to court as long as you can keep to the repayment plan.

If you miss or are late with a payment, your council or housing association may apply back to court to ask for a possession order.

When your case could be dismissed

The judge could dismiss your case if your housing association or council:

  • make a procedural error

  • fail to prove a ground for possession

If the case is dismissed you can stay in your home. 

Your council or housing association would normally have to serve a new notice if they think they still have a legal reason to evict you.

Last updated: 27 September 2020

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