Letters from the court
This page explains what happens if your landlord applies to court to evict you, and what you should do when you receive a letter from the court.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, get advice. It may not be too late to stop the eviction, even if the hearing is about to take place. Call Shelter Cymru’s expert housing advice helpline on 0345 075 5005. You could also email our housing advice team, or, if you prefer, visit advice near you to find a local Shelter Cymru advice surgery where you can talk to someone in person.
What does ‘applying for possession’ mean?
For you to be evicted your landlord has to get permission from the court. This is called ‘applying for possession’, or ‘applying for a possession order’.
If the court gives your landlord a possession order it gives the landlord the right to be in the property and ends your right to live there.
If your landlord applies for a possession order it is a civil matter and will be dealt with by the county court. Being taken to the county court is not the same as going to a criminal court.
Before a landlord applies for possession from the court, s/he will usually have to serve you with a notice. The type of notice that the landlord has to serve will depend on the sort of tenancy that you have. See the sections on Private tenants, Housing association tenants and Council tenants for more details.
Do I have to leave before the landlord’s notice ends?
If you don’t leave after the notice you received from the landlord ends, they will probably apply to court for a possession order. To get a possession order your landlord first has to fill in a form, pay a fee and give information about why you are being evicted. The first thing you will receive from the court is a claim form, which means that your landlord has started court action.
You will be given the chance to put your side of the story to the court. The forms you get will contain a standard ‘Defence form’ which you should fill in and return to the court. Contact us straightaway if you have received claim papers from the court and you want advice about whether you have a defence.
Will there be a hearing?
The court will normally arrange a court date so that you and your landlord can explain the situation to a judge.
The only exception to this is if your landlord has used the Accelerated Possession procedure and all of the following conditions apply:
- you are an assured shorthold tenant, and
- your landlord is asking the court to evict you under the ‘s21 procedure’ and has provided the court with proof that they have served you with a valid ‘s21 notice’ and complied with all of the necessary requirements,
- you don’t disagree with your landlord’s claim,
- you haven’t asked the court to delay the eviction.
If you disagree with your landlord’s claim that you are an assured shorthold tenant, or that you have received a valid ‘s21 notice’, or you think that your landlord has not complied with the legal requirements, you must complete and return the Defence form (N11B Wales). You should also return the Defence form if you want to ask the court to delay the eviction. If you don’t return it, there will not be a hearing and you will be evicted automatically. Get advice quickly if you need help completing the Defence form.
How do I reply to the court?
Once you receive the court papers you need to return the Defence form to the court. You may be asked to pay part of your landlord’s legal costs if you don’t have a good reason for not returning the Defence form in time. Giving information about your circumstances may help the court decide whether or not to make a possession order. You must use the Defence form enclosed with the court papers to do this.
You should explain your situation as fully as you can and provide evidence if possible. For example, you could explain that you have fallen behind with your rent because your housing benefit has been delayed, or because you have lost your job. If you disagree with any information your landlord has given about why you are being evicted, you should explain why. You can also ask the court to allow you more time to find somewhere else to live. You might want to do this if you have health problems or have young children and may not be able to find a place quickly.
The court will ask you to reply within 14 days. If you don’t reply during this time you can usually still explain your situation to the court at the hearing. The only exception to this is if you are an assured shorthold tenant and your tenancy has come to an end. In this situation a hearing won’t automatically be arranged unless you return the Defence form explaining why you disagree with your landlord’s claim (see above).
When will I have to go to the court?
The court may set a hearing date before it writes to inform you that your landlord has started court action. If so the time, date and location of the hearing will be on the front of the court papers you receive. It should normally be at least 28 days, but no longer than eight weeks, after your landlord originally applied to the court.
The court may set a hearing date after it writes to inform you that your landlord has started court action. You should be given at least 14 days’ notice of the hearing.
The hearing will be held privately before a judge in a county court. Your case is likely to be one of several that the judge is hearing that day and will be on a list. It is very important to arrive at court in time.
You may need help with the court hearing. It may be possible to be represented or have an adviser or friend go along with you. An adviser can explain what is likely to happen and may be able to speak on your behalf. Some courts have advisers on duty, who can help people on the day of the hearing.
What happens at the hearing?
At the hearing the judge will decide whether you should be evicted. This decision is based on the information that has been provided by you and your landlord and what the law says. If you and your landlord do not go to court the judge will look at the information you have supplied on paper and write to inform you of the decision. There are many different orders that the court can make and even if the court makes an order that you give up possession by a certain date, it may be possible to delay the eviction to find somewhere else to live.
If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order your landlord can only evict you by asking the court bailiffs to remove you from the accommodation.
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.