Possession proceedings process

Basic principles applicable to possession proceedings after notice has been served and the notice period has expired.

This content applies to England

Outline of procedure for possession

The procedure that a landlord seeking to regain possession of a rented property must follow, after the period of the notice served on the tenant/licensee has expired, includes five stages: 

If the correct procedure is not followed at any stage, it may be possible to prevent or delay the eviction. 

This procedure does not apply to landlords of tenants/licensees who are excluded occupiers.

Scope of the possession proceedings section

This section reflects the rules applicable to standard possession claims regulated under Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules. 

It does not cover:

Grounds for possession

One of the general features of the possession procedure is the requirement on the landlord to establish a ground for possession. There are notable exceptions, including when possession is sought of an assured shorthold tenancy using the section 21 notice procedure or a property let to an occupier with basic protection.

Grounds for possession can be mandatory or discretionary. When the ground is proven, the court must:

  • make a possession order when the landlord is using a mandatory ground (save where there is a public law, human rights or disability discrimination defence)

  • only make a possession order when the landlord is using a discretionary ground if it is reasonable to do so

The particular grounds that can be relied upon depend upon the occupier's status. 

Reasonableness

'Reasonable' means having regard to all the relevant circumstances of the case in possession claims involving a discretionary ground. 

The role of the court is to consider the impact of granting a possession order (or not) on these respective interests. 

What the court chooses to consider will depend upon the particular facts of the case, but could include:

  • length of time the tenant has lived in the property

  • breaches of earlier agreements or court orders 

  • health and age of the tenant and their household 

  • respective financial position of the landlord and tenant 

  • conduct of the tenant and their willingness to remedy any breach 

  • in cases of antisocial behaviour, the wider effects of the nuisance or annoyance caused.

Mediation at the review stage of possession proceedings

Possession proceedings have been reactivated since 20 September 2020. Until 30 July 2021 a two-stage process applies that involves a review hearing and a substantive hearing.

A pilot mediation service for landlords and tenants in possession cases is available from 1 February 2021. The service is available at the review hearing stage. The process is:

  • free

  • voluntary

  • telephone based

  • conducted by an independent third party

The case can be referred for mediation at the review stage if:

  • it is deemed suitable for mediation

  • all parties agree to use the service

An agreement can be reached only if all parties agree. It is advisable to seek independent advice before entering into an agreement. Mediation agreements can be enforced in the courts if the agreement is broken.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to the substantive hearing. The court will not have any information about the mediation details.

The Rental Mediation Service guidance contains more information about the mediation service.

Last updated: 3 June 2021