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Free legal advice if you have a housing problem

Help at a possession hearing

Try to get legal advice before you go to a possession hearing.

A solicitor or adviser can discuss your case with you and come to court with you.

You can get advice at court on the day if you do not have anyone to speak for you.

This is called the county court duty scheme. It is free for everyone.

A duty adviser is usually there at the court. You do not need an appointment.

What you need to do

Try to call the scheme before to find out exactly what to do on the day.

The scheme's contact details should be on your court paperwork.

You can also ask for a duty adviser at the court reception on the day.

Get to the court at least 30 minutes early so you have time to speak to an adviser. You may have to wait to see them.

Bring all your paperwork

This helps the adviser to understand your situation quickly so they can give the best advice.

For example, show them: 

  • details of your income

  • the notice to leave from your landlord

  • your court paperwork and documents

  • any defence sent to the court before the hearing

  • details of any legal help or advice you've had so far

The adviser will you ask about your situation and can speak to your landlord or lender's representatives. They can also go into the hearing and speak to the judge for you.

If you have rent or mortgage arrears, the adviser could help you with a plan to repay this over time. They could speak to your landlord or lender about this before you go in.

If no adviser is available

There will usually be someone available. You might not be able to speak to an adviser if:

  • there is staff sickness

  • the adviser is helping someone else

You should still go into the hearing when your name is called.

You could ask the judge to move the hearing to another time if you have not been able to get legal advice. This is called an 'adjournment'. The judge decides what to do.

What happens in the hearing

A judge could suspend a possession order or eviction warrant in some situations.

This means you can stay in your home as long as you stick to conditions set by the court.

For example, a suspended possession order might say that you have to:

  • pay your full rent or mortgage each month

  • repay your arrears in monthly instalments that you can afford

The adviser could ask the judge to stop or dismiss your case if your landlord or lender:

  • cannot prove a reason for evicting you

  • makes a serious mistake on the notice or the process they have followed

Landlords do not need to give a reason with a section 21 eviction.

But they still have to get the notice right, or a judge should dismiss the case.

Find out how to check if your section 21 notice is valid.

Tell the court duty adviser or the judge if you think it's not valid.

Asking for the hearing to be moved to another time

The adviser might ask to change your hearing date. For example, to give you time to:

  • get more legal advice

  • sort out an issue with benefits

  • get your wages if you start a new job soon

After the hearing

The adviser explains the court's decision and your next steps.

They may also tell you about other organisations who could help with:

The duty adviser will confirm your advice in a letter.

Last updated: 27 November 2023

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