Find out about different types of possession orders, and what other decisions a court can make during a possession hearing.
What is a possession order?
A possession order is an instruction given by a court that tells you when you have to leave your home.
There are 2 types of possession order:
- outright possession order
- suspended or postponed possession order
Your landlord must get a possession order to evict you unless you are an excluded occupier. If they don't and you're not an excluded occupier, the eviction is illegal.
A possession order is made at the end of a possession hearing.
Outright possession order
An outright possession order means you must leave the property by a certain date. The date is usually 14 days 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 earlier. For example, if you are ill or have young children.
Your landlord can ask court bailiffs to evict you if you don't leave by the date in the possession order.
It may take a few weeks for the eviction although things can move quicker if the landlord uses private bailiffs.
You should be given at least a few days' notice before the bailiffs arrive.
Suspended and postponed possession order
A suspended or postponed possession order means that you can stay in your home as long as you keep to certain conditions.
These conditions are explained on the court order. For example, you may be told to pay off any rent you owe on a weekly basis or be told not to cause further disturbance to your neighbours.
Suspended orders include a date. Postponed orders don't include a date.
If you breach a suspended order
Suspended orders include a specific date. If you break your conditions, the landlord can evict you on or after this date. Your landlord won't have to take you back to court and can apply for bailiffs to evict you.
This could happen very quickly and without advance warning.
If you breach a postponed order
If you breach a postponed order, your landlord can apply to court to get a fixed eviction date. The court decides whether there should be another hearing.
If the court gives a date, the landlord can apply for a warrant to evict you once it has passed.
Other decisions that can be made
Sometimes a court will make additional orders or won't make a possession order at all. A court may:
- adjourn the case
- dismiss the case
- tell you to pay your landlord's fees
Adjourning the case
The court can adjourn the case if the landlord has used a discretionary ground for possession.
This means they don't make a possession order and your tenancy continues as normal.
For example, they may do this for very small levels of rent arrears. You will still have to pay the rent arrears back in affordable instalments.
Dismissing the case
The court will dismiss your case if the landlord can't prove their case or hasn't followed the correct procedure.
This is also known as striking out a case.
If the case is dismissed, you have the right to remain in your home with the same conditions as before.
The court decides whether you should pay any of your landlord’s court costs. You may have to pay even if the case is adjourned or you leave your home before the case gets to court.
Getting a court order changed
You might be able to apply to the court to have a possession order cancelled or suspended.
Help at court and legal aid
You may qualify for legal aid if you're on a low income.
It's always best to get legal advice and representation before your hearing.
If you don't have a legal representative, you may be able to get help from a court duty scheme on the day.
Last updated 27 Sep 2019 | © Shelter
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