Council and housing association tenants: eviction for rent arrears

What to do at the hearing

Coronavirus update

From 21 September the courts started to deal with evictions again.

New procedures mean that a judge will review your case, usually 4 weeks before the possession hearing.

What happens on the review date

You get notice of the review from the court at least 3 weeks before it happens.

You don't attend court on the review date. 

At the review, a judge could:

  • set a date for a hearing - usually 4 weeks after the review

  • dismiss the claim - if there's been a procedural mistake by your landlord

  • give directions - to give you or your landlord more time to do something

The court won't make a possession order on the review date unless you agree. 

Don't agree to give up your home without legal advice.

You can get legal help from a court duty adviser if you don't already have a representative. 

The notice of review tells you how to contact the duty scheme on the day.

Arriving at court for a hearing

Possession hearings usually take place at your local county court.

Check the exact location on your possession hearing notice. Different buildings are being used by some courts as a coronavirus safety measure

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

Follow your local court's guidance on coronavirus safety measures.

More about attending a hearing during the coronavirus outbreak on GOV.UK

Help from the court duty scheme

The duty adviser can give you free legal advice and speak to the judge for you.

The notice of possession hearing sets out how to contact them.

They might be there in person or available by phone or videocall. 

You won’t 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 before you go into the hearing.

What to bring

Take the bundle of documents you received before the review 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.

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.

You should call the judge ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. Be polite and try not to interrupt. Keep your phone on silent.

What to say

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 must be at least £3.70 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 couldn't 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: 27 September 2020

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