Applications to suspend a warrant of possession

How a tenant can apply to suspend a County Court warrant of possession using form N244.

This content applies to England

Warrants of possession

A landlord can enforce a possession order by applying to court for a warrant of possession.

A possession warrant allows bailiffs (called Enforcement Agents) to evict any occupiers from the property.

A tenant can apply to the County Court to suspend a warrant on terms, or to stay execution for a short time. A stay of execution means the eviction is delayed to a new date set by the court.

The court can usually only suspend or stay the warrant if the original order was made on discretionary grounds.

An application to suspend or stay a warrant is made on form N244. There is usually a hearing with a district judge.

Landlords can also apply to have a case transferred to the High Court to be enforced by a writ of possession. A tenant can apply to the High Court to suspend a writ of possession.

The court’s powers to suspend a warrant

The court has broad powers to suspend or stay a warrant if the tenancy is secure, assured, assured shorthold or a Rent Act tenancy, and the possession order was made on a discretionary ground.[1]

The court also has the power to stay the execution of a warrant if the tenant is unable to pay any payments set out in a possession order. A stay of execution delays the enforcement of a court order, either to a fixed date or until a specified event has occurred. The court can decide on what terms and for how long the warrant is stayed.[2]

If the court did not have any discretion in making a possession order, the court’s power to suspend a warrant is limited. This includes if the order was made:

  • on a mandatory ground, for example ground 8 for assured tenants

  • under section 21 against an assured shorthold tenant

  • against an occupier with basic protection

The court can only delay execution in these cases up to 14 days after the date the possession order was made, or six weeks in cases of exceptional hardship.[3] In practice, six weeks has often passed by the time a warrant is due to be executed.

This restriction does not apply to an appeal court's power to stay the execution of a warrant pending an appeal.[4]

Breathing space

If the tenant is in a breathing space moratorium or mental health crisis moratorium, the court must ensure that any proceedings to enforce an order relating to a moratorium debt do not progress.[5]

This would include a warrant of possession if the order related to rent arrears.[6] It applies even if the order was made on a mandatory ground.

The landlord must notify the court when a breathing space starts if proceedings were already underway, including if a warrant has been applied for.[7]

The tenant should contact the court to make sure that it is aware that enforcement agents should not be instructed to execute a warrant.

How to apply to suspend a warrant

The tenant can apply to suspend a warrant using form N244. They should submit the form to the County Court hearing centre where the possession order was made.

Where the application for a warrant was made using Possession Claim Online (PCOL) then an application to suspend a warrant can be made online in the same way, providing it is made at least five days before the eviction date.[8]

Complete form N244

Form N244 is available on GOV.UK along with guidance on how to complete it. The tenant can also contact the court for a paper copy.

The form asks for the name of the court, the claim number and the warrant number. This information can be found on the N54 notice provided by the bailiffs.

The application includes a statement of truth. This confirms the applicant has an honest belief in its facts.

Include a witness statement

A witness statement is a formal document that provides the court with the facts of the case. This is usually the best way for the tenant to set out what they want the court to consider.

A witness statement by the applicant to accompany an N244 must:

  • be in a specific format

  • be written in the applicant's own words

  • include specific information, including address and occupation

  • include a signed statement of truth

Find out more about how to write and submit a witness statement.

Provide reasons for suspending the warrant

The tenant must explain why they want the warrant to be suspended. They can set out their reasons on the form itself or attach them as a witness statement.

If the tenant breached a suspended order on rent arrears grounds, they usually need to explain:

  • why they breached the order

  • what they can do to prevent further breaches

  • how they can afford to pay something towards the arrears as well as their contractual rent

If the tenant has had debt or benefits advice they should refer to this when explaining what they can do to avoid breaching the order again.

The tenant can ask the court to adjourn the application and stay the warrant if there will be a change in their circumstances. For example if:

  • there is a problem or delay in receiving benefits they are entitled to

  • their financial circumstance are changing, for example a new job

The tenant should provide clear evidence of a change of circumstances. For example, a letter with a start date for a new job.

The tenant should include any other relevant factors, for example if they have a health condition that has prevented them from taking steps to resolve the situation. They should also explain anything that means they would experience exceptional hardship if they were evicted, for example if the property has been adapted because the tenant has a disability.

Include evidence for any repayment offer

The tenant should include evidence to show how they can afford any offer to repay the arrears. This could be a financial statement if the tenant has had debt advice.

Money Helper has an online budget planner that a tenant can use to set out their income and expenditure. This can be printed and submitted with the application to suspend the warrant.

The tenant should say on the form or witness statement that they are attaching it as evidence.

Pay the fee or apply for remission

There is a fee for an application to suspend a warrant.

The applicant may be entitled to fee remission if they are on a low income and do not have capital above a set amount. An application for fee remission can be submitted to court with the N244 and should be made on form EX160.

The applicant needs to provide proof of income for fee remission, for example, proof of benefits. The court has the power to accept an application for fee remission without evidence in an emergency. This could include if a warrant is due to be executed the same or next day.

Submit the form

An application to suspend a warrant should be made with at least three days notice. The court notifies the landlord by sending them a copy of the form submitted by the tenant.[9]

The court has the power to agree to a shorter period of notice.[10] The tenant can ask for their application to be heard earlier, for example if the warrant is due to be executed before three days.

In practice, a tenant can apply to suspend a warrant any time up to and including the eviction date. If it is not possible to give formal notice to the landlord, then the tenant should contact the landlord to notify them of the application and the hearing time.

The court sometimes temporarily stays the warrant pending the hearing if it does not have capacity to list the hearing before the warrant is due to be executed.

The tenant should submit the original application form, as well as a copy for each party to be served, and one copy for the court.

Different County Court hearing centres have their own practices about when and how documents can be filed. Some court desks are only open at certain times of day. They usually close at 4pm. The tenant or their representative can contact the court desk for advice about the quickest way to issue the application.

Attend the hearing if there is one

The court sets a hearing to decide the application. The tenant should attend.

The court can decide not have a hearing if all the parties have agreed to the terms of an order being asked for. For example, if the landlord has agreed to a repayment offer, and the tenant's legal representative has drafted and submitted a consent order with the application to suspend.

What the court considers

The County Court can look at a broad range of factors when deciding if it should suspend the warrant. These include:

  • that the tenant may lose their home

  • the responsibilities of social landlords to other tenants

  • the nature and seriousness of any breaches of the tenancy agreement

  • the nature and seriousness of any breaches of a possession order

Where there is a substantial dispute about the amount of rent arrears, the tenant should ask for the application to be adjourned and the warrant stayed until this can be established.[11]

The tenant can try to raise a defence based on a breach of their human rights when applying to suspend a warrant. The County Court will only allow this to be heard in exceptional circumstances.[12]

Landlord introduces other grounds

The court can consider breaches of the tenancy other than those relating to the grounds in the original claim for possession. In one case, the court considered evidence of antisocial behaviour in an application to suspend a warrant to enforce a possession order granted on rent arrears grounds.[13]

In deciding whether to allow new grounds, the court can take into account:

  • the policy of the legislation, which is to only evict after a serious breach where it is reasonable to do so

  • that it may not be possible to deal with wider issues on an application to suspend

  • whether the landlord included the allegations in the original proceedings

  • that the tenant should have been given evidence of the allegations, especially if these were not in the original proceedings

In one case, the County Court held that where an Equality Act defence was raised at the enforcement stage, it could not be dealt with summarily without a trial. The landlord would need to bring a fresh claim on the grounds that they had tried to introduce.[14]

Making a counterclaim when applying to suspend the warrant

A tenant can make a counterclaim with the court's permission.[15] For example, it might be possible to bring a counterclaim for disrepair where a possession order was made on rent arrears grounds.

In deciding whether to allow the counterclaim the court can consider:[16]

  • the connection between the counterclaim and the original possession claim

  • the overall objective to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost

If the warrant is suspended

When the court grants the application to suspend, the bailiffs are informed and the warrant will not be executed.

If the warrant is due to be executed the tenant should contact the bailiffs’ office to let them know it has been suspended.

The tenant can make another application to suspend the warrant if they breach the terms of the suspension. There is no limit to the number of applications that can be made.[17]

The court might take into account previous breaches when deciding if it should suspend the warrant again. The tenant still needs to explain the change in circumstances that means they will not breach the terms again.

If the warrant is not suspended

The bailiffs carry out the eviction on the date given if the court does not grant the tenant’s application.

The tenant can appeal the judge’s decision not to suspend the warrant. An appeal is usually heard by a circuit judge. If a tenant is appealing, they should request a stay of execution of the warrant until the appeal is heard.

Where the tenant’s circumstances have changed, they can make a fresh application to suspend the warrant. The tenant cannot make another application without a change of circumstances.

The court has no power to suspend a warrant after it has been executed.[18] The tenant might be able to apply to set the warrant aside if there has been oppression or abuse of process.

Evictions where an occupant has symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating

Government guidance for tenants states that tenants should make bailiffs aware if anyone living in the property has tested positive or has any of the main symptoms of COVID-19.

Tenants should use the court contact details provided on the N54 notice of eviction to inform the bailiffs about their circumstances, including when the symptoms started and how long they have been self-isolating for.

Previously issued guidance to bailiffs states that evictions should not be carried out if they are made aware that the tenant or anyone the tenant lives with:

  • has coronavirus symptoms

  • has tested positive for coronavirus

  • is awaiting coronavirus test results

This guidance is currently being reviewed.

The guidance for tenants confirms that bailiffs can withdraw from the property if they observe that someone has visible signs of symptoms of COVID-19.

Example of a completed N244 to suspend a warrant


Download an example N244 to suspend a warrant for a tenant on rent arrears grounds. (PDF)


N244 Application notice

Name of court - ANY TOWN COUNTY COURT

Claim no. - XXXX

Fee account no. - leave blank

Help with Fees - Ref. no - leave blank

Warrant no. - XXXX

Claimant's name - ANY LANDLORD

Defendant's name - ANY TENANT

Date - XX/XX/XXXX

1. What is your name or, if you are a legal representative, the name of your firm?

ANY TENANT

2. Are you a

Defendant

3. What order are you asking the court to make and why?

I am asking the Court to suspend the warrant of possession due to be executed on xx/xx/xxxx on terms that I pay my contractual rent payments plus £X towards the arrears each week.

4.Have you attached a draft of the order you are applying for?

No

5. How do you want to have this application dealt with?

at a hearing

6. How long do you think the hearing will last?

0 Hours 10 Minutes

Is this time estimate agreed by all parties

No

7. Give details of any fixed trial date or period

None

8. What level of Judge does your hearing need?

District Judge

9. Who should be served with this application?

The claimant

9a. Please give the service address, (other than details of the claimant or defendant) of any party named in question 9.

Leave blank

10. What information will you be relying on, in support of your application?

Tick witness statement if the applicant is including one

OR

Tick the evidence set out in the box below

I am a single parent. I am working part time and receive Universal Credit.

I got into difficulties paying the rent because I changed jobs and there was a period during which I had no income. I had financial difficulties and was paying other debts.

My landlord started possession proceedings against me because of the arrears. On xx/xx/xxxx my landlord obtained a suspended possession order on the terms that I pay my current rent plus £X per week towards the arrears.

I managed to keep up with my payments until xx/xx/xxxx when I fell behind because my income dropped due to my employer reducing my hours. I did not know that I could apply for benefits while working and was unable to afford the rent repayments. As soon as I received the warrant I contacted ANY ADVICE AGENCY for advice. Following their advice, I have now claimed universal credit. I have also had debt advice and understand that I must prioritise my rent payments.

I am very sorry that the arrears got out of control but I am now able to afford my contractual rent plus £X per week towards the arrears. I have attached a financial statement that shows I can afford this amount.

I ask the court to accept that despite the problems I have had, I have shown that I am taking steps to resolve the situation. If I was to lose my home, I would not have the money for a deposit to rent somewhere else, and I have been told that the council would consider me intentionally homeless. My family and I would experience severe hardship if we were to become homeless.

I respectfully ask the Court to suspend the warrant of possession on terms that I pay my contractual rent payments plus £X towards the arrears each week.

Statement of truth

This should be signed and dated by the applicant.

They should also provide their address and contact information.

Last updated: 11 January 2022

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.9(2) Housing Act 1988, s85(2) Housing Act 1985, s100(2) Rent Act 1977.

  • [2]

    s.88 County Courts Act 1984.

  • [3]

    s.89 Housing Act 1980.

  • [4]

    Admiral Taverns (Cygnet) Ltd v Daniel and Daly [2008] EWCA Civ 1501.

  • [5]

    reg 10(5) The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2021/1311

  • [6]

    reg 10(6) The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2021/1311

  • [7]

    reg 10(1) The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2021/1311; Practice Direction 70B Civil Procedure Rules

  • [8]

    para.13.1 Practice Direction 55B Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [9]

    r.23.7(1) Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [10]

    r23(7)(4) Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [11]

    Haringey LBC v Powell (1996) 28 HLR 798, CA.

  • [12]

    R (on the application of JL) v Secretary of State for Defence [2013] EWCA Civ 449; (1) Lawal (2) Lawal v Circle 33 Housing Trust [2014] EWCA Civ 1514.

  • [13]

    Sheffield City Council v Hopkins (2002) 34 HLR 237, CA.

  • [14]

    Midland Heart Limited v Margaret Burns and CA (a protected party by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor), County Court At Birmingham, 3 May 2019. (Unreported).

  • [15]

    r.20.4(2)(b) Civil Procedure Rules 1998, Rahman v Sterling Credit Ltd [2001] 1 WLR 496; Midland Heart Ltd v Idawah [2014] EW Misc B48, CC (Birmingham).

  • [16]

    r.20.9(2)(b), r.1.1, Civil Procedure Rules.

  • [17]

    See for example, Ealing LBC v Richardson {2005} EWCA Civ 1798 in which the tenant succeeded in an application to suspend a warrant after eight previous applications.

  • [18]

    Leicester CC v Aldwinkle(1991) 24 H.L.R. 40 CA.