Section 21 eviction


Challenging a section 21 notice in court

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.

Get free legal advice

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

An adviser can:

  • check your notice
  • help with court forms
  • make you aware of any risks or costs involved

You can speak to a court duty adviser on the day if the court arranges a review or hearing.

But you shouldn't leave it this late. It's best get advice as soon as you get a notice.

Check your notice is valid

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

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 it's not valid.

If your section 21 is valid, the court must make a possession order.

You may have to pay the costs of court action and eviction if the notice is valid.

You should look for somewhere else to live but your tenancy rights continue until you leave voluntarily or are evicted through the legal process.

Dealing with the court paperwork

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

This table shows the main documents you should get before a court hearing.

Letters received What this means
Claim and defence forms Your landlord has applied for a possession order.
Reactivation notice Your landlord has applied to restart the court process.
Notice of review  The court has scheduled a review date for your case.
Notice of possession hearing The court has arranged a hearing for you to attend.

Claim and defence forms

Check if your landlord is using the 'accelerated procedure'.

There won't automatically be a review or a hearing with this procedure.

Your landlord is using the accelerated procedure if you receive:

Your landlord is using standard possession proceedings if you receive:

  • N5 claim form
  • N11R defence form

There will be a review date and a hearing with standard proceedings.

You should return your defence form to the court within 2 weeks.

Get legal help with the defence form.

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

If you can't complete the form or get help with it, court guidance says you could send a short statement to the court instead.

You should explain why you don't think the notice is valid. The court can't usually stop the process for other reasons.

Reactivation notice

You will get a reactivation notice if your landlord applied for a possession order before 3 August 2020 and now wants to restart the court process.

Your landlord must set out what they know about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on you and your household.

They must also provide further information if they believe the court should prioritise your case for a review. For example, because of very high rent arrears or significant antisocial behaviour.

With a section 21 eviction, this information won't affect whether the judge makes a possession order but it can affect how quickly your case is looked at.

Get legal advice if you get a reactivation notice.

Notice of review

A notice of review tells you the date your case will be reviewed by a judge.

You don't need to attend in person.

Get legal advice before the review date.

If you're unable to do this, you can get legal help from a court duty adviser on the day.

The notice of review tells you how to do this.

Notice of possession hearing

A possession hearing will usually be 4 weeks after the review date at your local county court.

You should always attend or let the court know if there's a very good reason why you can't. For example, sudden and serious ill health.

Get legal advice before the possession hearing.

If you're unable to do this, you can get legal help from a court duty adviser on the day.

The notice of possession hearing tells you how to do this.

The court decision

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

The judge must:

  • make an order - if the notice is valid
  • dismiss the case - if the notice is not valid

If the notice is valid

The judge must make an outright possession order.

The order will contain a date for possession. This is not the same as an eviction date. But it is the date the the court orders you to leave by.

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

If the notice is not valid

The judge should dismiss 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 disagree with a court decision

You can appeal to a higher judge called a circuit judge if you think that the judge who dealt with your case got it wrong. For example, if they said the section 21 notice was valid and you don't think it was.

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

You can also apply to set aside a possession order made under the accelerated procedure if you can show that the section 21 notice wasn't valid. You must do this within 2 weeks of getting a copy of the order.


Last updated 21 September 2020 | © Shelter

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