Receiving a court order from your council
Ideally, you should try to get advice before the court hearing. The sooner you get advice, the more likely you are to keep your home. If there has not been enough time to prepare, your adviser may write to the court asking for more time or request that you ask the court for more time yourself.
If you have no adviser, some courts have a ‘duty adviser’ on possession days who may be able to help you on the day. You should try to arrive at the court in good time so you can speak to an adviser, if one is available. If you cannot get an adviser before the hearing, you should try to attend court yourself. The judge will give you an opportunity to explain your circumstances in relation to the possession action against you. But don’t take any chances – try to get advice as soon as you can.
The judge will make a decision at the court hearing. If you do not understand what the order means, check with an adviser immediately. If you have a secure tenancy it is likely that the judge will make one of the following decisions:
- dismiss the landlord’s claim. This will mean the council has to start the process all over again if it wants to evict you. The court is unlikely to dismiss the claim unless strong legal reasons are provided. For more information, contact an independent adviser or solicitor.
- adjourn the hearing to another date. This is usually to give you more time to prepare your case, for example if it looks as though you may have a defense. However, you should not rely on the court doing this, and should always contact an adviser as soon as possible, and preferably before the hearing.
- adjourn the hearing on a condition (eg that you regularly pay your rent and something towards the arrears). If you follow the conditions set by the court and stick to the agreement, the case will probably not go back to court.
- make a suspended (or postponed) order for possession. This allows you to stay in your home as long as you stick to certain conditions. The conditions will be set out by the court in the order (eg you might pay the rent plus something towards the arrears, or ensure that your children don’t cause a nuisance). If you break these conditions, the council can ask the court to list a date for you to be evicted and without another court hearing. A suspended order is meant to be a last chance for you to sort things out.
- make an outright possession order. This effectively means that the property will be given back to the council on a certain date. If you don’t leave by the date set by the court, the council can ask the court to send a bailiff to remove you and your belongings from your home. You should be sent a letter first called a Notice of Eviction, but you will usually only have a few days in which to leave. The bailiffs are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to evict you if necessary.
- make a money judgment. This means that you have to pay the rent arrears, regardless of whether or not you are evicted. This can also affect your credit rating, which could make it more difficult for you to find a new home.
Sometimes the judge will attach a money judgement to a possession order. This means that as well as having to leave your home, you will be asked to pay any rent arrears, the court or bailiff’s costs, or all three. Even if the court makes an outright possession order and the council asks the bailiffs to remove you, it may still be possible to stop or delay the eviction. Contact an adviser immediately.
If you have an introductory or demoted tenancy, the court will not have so much choice about what order to make. It is important that you seek advice.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.