What orders can the court make?
If you haven’t left by the time the notice expires, your housing association will usually have to apply for an order from the county court telling you to leave. This is known as a possession order. Most tenants are entitled to stay in their accommodation until a possession order takes effect.
Sometimes housing associations are able to get a possession order automatically, but other times they need to prove a reason (also known as a ground) to the court. Unless you are an assured shorthold tenant who has been served with a particular form of 2-month notice, giving the landlord the automatic right to a possession order, there will be a court hearing.
Always try to get advice well before the date of the court hearing. If there has not been enough time to prepare, your adviser may write to the court asking for more time or tell you to ask for more time. If you have no adviser, some courts have a ‘duty adviser’ who may be able to help you on the day. But don’t take any chances – get advice as soon as you can.
The judge will make a decision at the court hearing. You should always attend the hearing so that you can explain your situation to the judge. This may affect the decision the court makes. If you do not understand what the order means, check this with an adviser immediately. It is likely that the judge will do one of the following:
- dismiss the claim. This is only likely if there are strong legal reasons to do so. If your landlord still wants to evict you, the association will have to start the process again.
- adjourn the hearing to another date. This is usually if there are unresolved issues which need to be sorted out before the court makes its decision, eg if you are waiting for a claim for housing benefit to be decided, or to give you more time to prepare your case, if it looks as though you may have a defence. However, you should not rely on the court doing this, and should always get advice as soon as possible.
- adjourn the hearing on a condition (eg that you pay your weekly rent and something towards the arrears). If you stick to the condition, your 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 abide by certain conditions or terms. These conditions will be set out in the court’s order. For example, you might have to pay your rent plus an amount to repay the arrears by installments, or ensure your children don’t cause a nuisance. If you do not keep to the conditions, your landlord could taken action to evict you quickly without another court hearing. A suspended order is meant to be a last chance to give you time to sort things out.
- grant an outright possession order. This means you are ordered to give the property back to the housing association on a certain date, often 28 days after the date the court makes the order. If you don’t leave by the date ordered by the court, the housing association can ask the court to send a bailiff to remove you and your belongings from your home. You should be sent a letter first, but you will only have a few days in which to leave. The bailiffs can use reasonable force if necessary.
- make a money judgment, which means that you have to pay the rent arrears, regardless of whether or not you are evicted. This will affect your credit rating, which could make it difficult for you to find a new home.
If the judge makes a possession order, s/he may also include a money judgment . This means that as well as leaving your home, you will be asked to pay any rent arrears, the court or bailiff costs, or all three.
Even if the court makes an outright possession order and the housing association asks the bailiffs to remove you, it may still be possible to stop or delay the eviction. Contact an adviser immediately for advice on what you need to do to try and stop an eviction.
If you haven’t left by the date the court ordered you to leave, the housing association can arrange for a bailiff to evict you. Bailiffs are employed by the court. You will receive a letter from the court saying when the bailiffs will arrive. Bailiffs can physically remove you and your belongings from the property, but they must not use violence or unreasonable force in doing so.
No-one other than a bailiff acting for the county court is allowed to remove you from the accommodation. If anyone else attempts to do this, they are likely to be guilty of illegal eviction, which is a serious offence. Contact Shelter Cymru advice surgery straight away if this happens to you.
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.