Eviction for rent arrears: Council and housing association tenants

What to do before the hearing and on the day

The court will usually arrange the hearing when they send out the claim and defence forms.

Check the paperwork to find out:

  • the time and date of the hearing

  • where it will take place

  • how to get legal advice or contact the court duty scheme

Get legal advice

A court hearing means a judge will decide what happens next.

It does not mean you will definitely lose your home but you need to take action now.

Get legal help with the court process and paperwork.

Get help from a court duty scheme

Court duty advice is free. It's provided by advisers and solicitors from local advice centres or law centres. For example, Shelter or Citizens Advice.

How the duty adviser can help

The duty adviser can:

  • give free legal advice

  • speak to the judge for you

  • take your case on and represent you

  • refer you for mediation or for debt advice

  • negotiate with the council or housing association

You can contact the scheme before the review date or the hearing but might have to wait for the day to speak to an adviser.

What the adviser needs to know

The duty adviser should be able to access your electronic court bundle with your permission.

You will not have long to explain your situation. Make sure you tell the adviser:

  • why you’re in arrears

  • what you can afford to pay

  • if you’ve sent back a defence form

  • if you’ve had any other advice or legal help

The duty adviser may be able to help you agree a repayment plan with your council or housing association.

Get free legal help from a county court duty scheme on the day if you do not have an adviser or solicitor with you.

Where the hearing takes place

Possession hearings are usually at your local county court.

Check the exact location on the court paperwork.

You should attend in person unless everyone has agreed to a hearing by phone or video. 

What to take to court

Take the bundle of documents you received to the hearing. 

If you received these by email, it's a good idea to email them to your adviser. 

Bring any letters or other evidence that show you can make payments. For example:

  • letters about housing benefit

  • information on your phone about universal credit

  • payslips or a letter to say you’re starting a new job

Bring the notice and any other letters from your council or housing association.

What happens during the hearing

The hearing will only last about 15 minutes. Keep your phone on silent.

A judge will look at the evidence from the council or housing association, and from you before making a decision.

Your landlord's representative will speak first. Then you or your adviser can respond.

What to say

You should address the judge as 'judge'. Be polite and try not to interrupt.

The judge can look at if it's reasonable for you to stay in your home if either:

  • you're a council tenant

  • your housing association only uses grounds 10 and 11

Tell the judge if:

  • you can make a repayment offer – this should be at least £4.24 a week

  • you’ve already made a repayment arrangement with your landlord

  • you're waiting for a lump sum payment of benefits or wages

Explain everything you've done to sort out the rent arrears and that you will stick to the repayment arrangement.

If your housing association uses Ground 8

Tell the judge and bring evidence if you owe less than 2 months' rent at the hearing.

The judge must make an outright possession order if you still owe more than this.

When you can ask for a delay

The judge might reschedule the hearing if you need more time to do something, such as get legal advice or provide evidence.

This is called an 'adjournment'. You usually have to come back to court at a later date.

Tell the judge why you could not get legal advice or provide the evidence needed before the hearing, and what steps you did take.

If your housing association is using Ground 8, you can only ask for an adjournment at the start of the hearing - before the judge hears the housing association's evidence.

Last updated: 10 December 2023

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