People often incorrectly refer to a hearing for possession as an eviction hearing. Generally, a landlord cannot gain possession of a property without first obtaining a court order for possession. There is normally no separate eviction hearing.

Should I plan to attend the hearing?

Yes, you should make every effort to attend, as the Judge will not be impressed if you simply do not turn up and may make an order for possession in your absence.

If for some reason you cannot attend the hearing, you need to tell the court. The name of the court will be stated on the letter telling you about the hearing. You should contact the court by phone or email to tell them why you cannot attend. If you intend to defend the claim and haven’t yet filed your defence, you can still send it to the court. You should contact the court to ensure that it has been received and placed on your file for the Judge.

Preparing for the hearing

It may still be possible to get legal advice and representation for the hearing. If you think that you have a defence (such as your landlord not protecting your deposit) or a counter claim (such as disrepair), we may be able to assist.

If you are unable to obtain legal advice and representation, you can still negotiate with your landlord and see if they will withdraw the court proceedings. Call them and explain why you should remain in your home. For instance, if there is an issue with rent arrears, you may be able to negotiate a repayment plan and ask that they withdraw the claim. If they agree to do this, ask them to put this in writing and you should keep a copy.

If you haven’t already, you should try and sort out your documents to take to court. You may not fully understand them, but a good starting point is to put them in date order in a folder or envelope.

You should have received a formal notice seeking possession prior to the claim being sent to court. Make sure you bring this, any other correspondence relating to the claim and the court documents to the hearing.

If you believe that you have a defence or counter-claim, you should collate any evidence that relates to it, such as up-to-date photos of disrepair or correspondence relating to benefit issues that have caused rent arrears. Make sure that you bring these documents to court.

If you have rent arrears, you should ensure that you bring your completed income and expenditure form to the hearing. You should have already completed this in your defence that you filed at court.

You may find it useful to prepare a short summary of your case to help you explain what has happened to the judge. Do try and keep this brief.

Attending court

Understandably, a lot of people feel very nervous about attending court, especially if they have not been before. However, it is not as dramatised as it is on television and you are not on trial. It’s important to remember that the courts are impartial. The Judge wants to be presented with the facts and the law to then be able to make a decision.

You do not need to wear a suit, but do dress for court.

Get to court early. You may be able to see the duty solicitor at the court on the day and obtain legal advice. Get to court at least 30 minutes before the scheduled hearing. The duty solicitor will have a limited time to see you and it will help them if you have prepared your documents.

Most courts have security at the entrance and everyone needs to go through the body scanner and have their bags checked. Allow extra time for this.

At the court, you should check which court room your case is being heard in. This information is usually on the boards. Ask the court staff if you are unsure.

You may also be able to negotiate with your landlord while you are waiting to be called. For instance, you may be able to arrange a repayment plan to clear rent arrears and request that the hearing be withdrawn.

At the hearing

The Judge will need to decide whether to grant your landlord possession.

The hearings are often quite short with some being allocated a mere 5 minutes. If you have already prepared a short summary of your case, bring a spare copy to hand to the Judge at the start of the hearing to read.

If you do not agree with the claim, do not admit it. You should ask the Judge to consider any defence that you have and show them evidence. In addition, tell the Judge if you have tried, but been unable to get legal advice. In such a situation, you could also ask the Judge to adjourn (i.e. postpone) the hearing to give you more time to obtain advice and/or deal with any other issues.

The court may make a suspended or postponed possession order, setting out terms that you need to comply with. If you do not, your landlord can ask the court to make an outright possession order.

Alternatively, the Judge may grant your landlord possession and set a date for you to leave the property. If you do not leave by this date, your landlord can ask the court to evict you.

If a possession order is made against you, it may be possible to appeal and it is still worth obtaining advice. You could try shelter or Civil Legal Advice.