Applying to court for a possession hearing

Introduction

Most landlords will not have to attend a court hearing to regain possession of their property. The average length of a tenancy is four years and the vast majority of tenancies are ended when the tenant chooses to give notice and leave. 

However, sometimes a landlord has to take action to regain possession of their property. In these cases the landlord will have to serve a notice and follow it up with an application for a possession order if the tenant doesn't leave at the end of the notice period.

Unless the tenancy is an excluded one (such as a lodger), a tenant is entitled to remain in possession of a property until such time as a bailiff enforces a possession order. 

This guide provides information on applying to court for a possession hearing rather than applying for possession via the accelerated possession procedure. 

When should I apply to court for a hearing rather than using the accelerated possession procedure?

The accelerated possession procedure is the most common route to a possession order. This route allows landlords to apply for a possession order without usually needing to attend a hearing. Instead the landlord sends off the necessary paperwork for a judge to assess. If successful the possession order will be issued without the need for a hearing. It is only available where all of the following apply:

  • the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy agreement
  • a valid Section 21 notice has been served and the notice period has expired
  • you are not seeking an order for rent arrears
  • you are the original landlord
  • you have all copies of a written tenancy agreement (oral tenancies are not allowed)

For any other situation you must apply to court for a hearing.

How do I apply to court?

Once your notice has expired you can apply for a possession hearing by filling out the N5 and N119 forms. 

If you have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy and you are seeking possession exclusively because of rent arrears, you can apply for a possession hearing online by starting your claim through Possession Claim Online. Typically this means you will have served a Section 8 notice citing grounds 8, 10 and 11 as the reason for possession.

Completion notes for court forms

To help our members apply to court for a possession the NRLA has produced some completion notes for the N5 and N119, as well as warrant for possession (N325). 

How do I found out which court I should send my application to?

Applications should be made to the closest county court to the property dealing with housing matters. You can find out which court this is by using the Government's court finder service:

https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/

How much does it cost to make an application?

For an application using N5 and N119 the cost at the time of writing is £355.

If you are applying using the PCOL option this costs £325. 

Can my agent attend the hearing for me?

No, your agent cannot be the claimant nor do they have right of audience. As a result they cannot attend the hearing for you. If you cannot attend the hearing you should have a legal professional prepare these documents for you and attend the hearing on your behalf.

How long will it take to arrange a hearing?

Normally this will depend on the circumstances of the case. However, until 23 August 2020 all possession proceedings have been suspended. As a result you will not be given a hearing date until some time after that point.

My possession order has been granted. What do I do next?

Once you have obtained a possession order the tenant will be given a date to leave the property. The tenant has until midnight on that date to vacate. After that time the property should be checked to see whether the tenant remains. If the tenant does remain in the property you cannot enter by yourself to retake possession.

My possession order has been granted but the tenant did not move out. What should I do next?

If your tenant has not moved out then the next step is to enforce the possession order. Normally this is done by applying for a county court bailiff to visit the property to enforce the judgement.

How do I apply for a county court bailiff?

You can apply for a county court bailiff by sending an N325 form to the county court that issued the possession order. The NRLA produces completion notes for this document that is available to download for all our members. Until 20 September no bailiff appointments will be scheduled however.

How much does an application cost?

At the time of writing, the cost to make a warrant for possession application is £121. The courts regularly review these prices though.

I have a possession order, can a bailiff enforce this during the coronavirus pandemic?

Until 20 September, bailiffs will not be able to enforce a possession order even if it was granted prior to the suspension of possession hearings.

Will bailiffs be enforcing possession orders over the Christmas period?

The Government has announced that bailiffs will not be enforcing warrants over the Christmas period except in the most serious cases. This winter 'truce' will last from 11 December 2020 to 11 January 2021.

This truce will not extend to the most serious cases and some warrants may still be enforced where anti-social behaviour, for example, is occurring. The Government has confirmed they will be producing guidance for bailiffs explaining when they may still enforce a warrant over this period.

If my area goes into lockdown will a bailiff still be able to enforce a warrant?

This will depend on the specific restrictions of a local lockdown. If the restrictions prohibit people from entering homes then bailiffs will not be able to enforce a judgement.