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Eviction for rent arrears

About eviction for rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, your landlord will probably try and evict you. This is called seeking possession.

If they want to seek possession, most landlords must follow a certain procedure. This involves giving you a written notice.

Getting a notice doesn’t always mean you will have to leave your home. In most cases your landlord still has to get a court order before they can evict you and they can’t apply for a court order until the notice period has run out. The court order is called a possession order.

If you don’t leave by the date on the possession order, they will need to get a warrant of possession, allowing the bailiffs to come and evict you.

However, there are some types of tenancy where your landlord doesn’t need to get a court order to evict you. These include tenants who live in the same accommodation as their landlord.

If you share accommodation with your landlord and they want to evict you, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser. You can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your local CAB, including those who can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

This page tells you what happens once your landlord has got a possession order to evict you and whether there’s anything you can do to stop the eviction going ahead.

For more information about what happens before your landlord has got a possession order, see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

If you are a private tenant, you might also want to look at Assured shorthold tenancies and rent arrears.

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Your landlord gets a possession order

If your landlord wants to evict you for rent arrears, in most cases they will need to get a court order called a possession order, first.

Once your landlord has got a possession order, it may give a date by which you have to leave.

If you are a private tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord may have been granted a possession order without the need for a court hearing. You will be told to leave the property no longer than 14 days after the order is granted, although it may be possible to ask for this date to be delayed under certain circumstances.

For more information about the eviction of assured shorthold tenants, see Assured shorthold tenancies and rent arrears.

In other cases, there will probably have been a court hearing. If there was a court hearing, there are three possible types of possession order your landlord may have been granted:

  • an outright possession order
  • a suspended possession order
  • a postponed possession order.

Outright possession orders

An outright possession order will have been granted if you were unable to persuade the judge that you could keep up your rent payments and pay back the rent you owe. An outright possession order will say that you have to leave the property by a certain date. If you don’t leave by this date, your landlord will need to apply for a warrant of possession.

It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances may have changed or your Housing Benefit claim may have come through so you can pay off all the arrears.

For more information about how to deal with your landlord when you have rent arrears, see Paying off your rent arrears.

Under some circumstances, it may be possible to postpone, suspend or set aside the warrant of possession.

Suspended possession orders

If your landlord was granted a suspended possession order, this means that you are allowed to stay in your home as long as you keep up the rent payments and pay back what you owe. If you haven’t stuck to this arrangement, your landlord can apply for the court to issue a warrant of possession. Your landlord doesn’t have to tell you that they’ve applied for the warrant.

It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances may have changed or your Housing Benefit claim may have come through so you can pay off all the arrears.

For more information about how to deal with your landlord when you have rent arrears, see Paying off your rent arrears.

Under some circumstances, it may be possible to postpone, suspend or set aside the warrant of possession.

Postponed possession orders

A postponed possession order is similar to a suspended possession order. It means you are allowed to stay in your home as long as you keep up the rent payments and pay back what you owe. If you haven’t stuck to this arrangement, your landlord can ask the court for permission to evict you. They will have to go through another procedure first though.

This involves applying to the court for a possession date and then, once they've got this, applying for a warrant of possession.

The court must agree to give your landlord a possession date before they can issue a warrant. You can only be forced to leave the property once your landlord gets the warrant.

Before they apply for a possession date, your landlord will have to write to you first, at least 14 days before they make the application. They must give you details of the arrears you owe, give you notice that they are going to make the court application and tell you your rights. If you don't think the amount of arrears the landlord says you owe is right or they have got other information wrong, you should reply to the landlord within seven days.

For more about postponed possession orders, see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

It might be possible to persuade your landlord not to apply for the warrant of possession. For example, your financial circumstances may have changed or your Housing Benefit claim may have come through and you can pay off all the arrears.

For more information about how to deal with your landlord when you have rent arrears, see Paying off your rent arrears.

If the court does grant your landlord a warrant of possession, under some circumstances, it may be possible able to suspend or set aside the warrant.

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Your landlord gets a warrant of possession

If you haven’t left by the date on the possession order and your landlord still wants to evict you, they must apply for a warrant of possession. This is authority granted by the court for the bailiffs to evict you.

The warrant will give a date and time for the eviction. You will also get a notice of eviction from the bailiffs with the date and time of the eviction.

If you haven’t left by the date on the notice of eviction, the bailiffs will come to your home and force you to leave.

It’s against the law for your landlord to try to evict you without a warrant of possession. If this happens, call the police.

If you don’t get a notice of eviction, you can apply to the court for the warrant of possession to be set aside.

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Should you move out before the date of eviction

You will have to think very carefully about whether to move out before the date of eviction.

You may want to give yourself as much time as possible to find somewhere else to live. If this is the case, you may be able to persuade the court to give you more time in the property before you have to leave. This is called asking to postpone the warrant of possession.

If you’re an assured shorthold tenant, you can find more information about asking the court to delay your eviction in Assured shorthold tenancies and rent arrears.

If you're going to be homeless after the eviction, it's possible the council will have to rehouse you. If you think the council may have to rehouse you, you should not move out until the council has confirmed they are going to rehouse you in writing. This may stop them from finding you intentionally homeless. However, you should bear in mind that there are only a very limited number of circumstances in which the council does have to rehouse you, even if you are homeless.

You may decide not to move before the eviction date if you think you have a good chance of persuading the landlord to let you stay on, or of persuading the court to stop the eviction.

You may be able to persuade your landlord to let you stay on in the property if your financial circumstances have changed or your Housing Benefit claim has come through and you can now pay back what you owe.

For more information about how to deal with your landlord when you have rent arrears, see Paying off your rent arrears.

If you can’t persuade your landlord to let you stay, you may be able to persuade the court to stop the eviction because you can now pay your rent and arrears, or because your landlord hasn’t followed the procedures properly.

However, you should bear in mind that the longer you stay on in the property, the more money you may end up owing.

If there are any further legal procedures, you may have to pay court costs, including those of your landlord. You may have to pay your landlord rent (called mesne profits) up until the day you leave, although this isn’t always the case.

If you’re thinking about staying in your home after you get a notice of eviction, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser. You can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your local CAB, including those who can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Is there anything you can do once the warrant is issued?

It may be possible to ask for the warrant of possession to be either suspended or set aside. If the court agrees to this, it would mean that the eviction could not go ahead.

Suspending the warrant

If a court agrees for the warrant to be suspended, this would stop the eviction going ahead for an indefinite period of time.

If you want to apply for the warrant to be suspended, you’ll need to do this before the eviction takes place.

You’ll have to give enough information to persuade the judge that the warrant should be suspended. For example, if your landlord was given a postponed or suspended possession order, you’ll need to explain why you haven’t been able to stick to the arrangement you agreed to and what you’ll do in future to make sure you do stick to it. It's not enough to say that you'll be made homeless.

If you have a good reason for the warrant to be suspended, then it's worth applying to the court, even if it’s on the same day you are due to be evicted. You'll normally have to pay a fee unless you claim certain benefits or have a low income.

If you want to apply to suspend a warrant of possession, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser straightaway. You can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your local CAB, including those who can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If the judge decides to stop the eviction, you should contact the bailiffs office to make sure that they know this.

If the judge decides that the warrant should not be suspended the eviction will go ahead and you'll need to find somewhere else to live very quickly.

Setting aside a warrant of possession

If the court agrees to set aside a warrant of possession, it is as if the warrant was never issued in the first place. You can apply for a warrant of possession to be set aside either before or after you’ve been evicted.

There are only a very few circumstances when a court will set aside a warrant of possession. These include where:

  • the warrant was wrongly issued before the date on the possession order
  • no notice of eviction was issued
  • your landlord deliberately gave wrong information to the court or didn’t give them information they knew about, for example, about your Housing Benefit.

If you want to apply to set aside a warrant of possession, you should get advice from an expert housing adviser. You can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your local CAB, including those who can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Further help

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