Seven things you should know about defending rent possession claims

A rent possession claim is where a landlord has applied for an order from the court to evict a tenant due to unpaid rent. The landlord must first obtain a court order before they can evict someone for rent arrears, a process called ‘seeking possession’. If you are facing a rent possession claim it can be a very serious and distressing position to be in as you could lose your home.

Here are seven things you should know about defending rent possession claims:

  1.  Possession claims brought on the basis of arrears are the most common type of case; the Housing Law team at Switalskis deal with such claims on a daily basis. Whether it is a private or social housing property, or a homeowner with a mortgage, most County Courts have one full list dedicated to these cases on a weekly basis.
  2. Despite extensive legal aid cuts, the Legal Aid Agency funds Duty Solicitors & Advisers to represent any defendant tenant or mortgagor who attends at Court on designated Rent or Mortgage Possession Lists. And that means anyone, regardless of their financial circumstances or the merits of any case.
  3. It is, therefore, ALWAYS worth turning up to your court hearing, even if you think you have reached an agreement with your landlord/mortgage company or, even more importantly, if you have buried your head in the sand, done nothing about it and think you have no chance of defending the claim against you.
  4. There is usually something the Duty Solicitor can do, from helping to keep you in your home with a reasonable, affordable offer of payment (unrepresented defendants frequently make unrealistic and unaffordable offers to try to stay in their home) to, when eviction really is inevitable, buying you a bit more time to move out.
  5. Despite the risk of losing their homes, a staggering 50% – 66% of people with hearings don’t turn up to court which significantly increases the number of outright Possession Orders made.
  6. The Duty Solicitor is there to help. If no one turns up, they end up doing nothing! If Defendants do seek help, the hard work is usually done outside Court before the hearing, making the hearing itself less stressful for the defendant and far easier for the District Judges…
  7. Possession proceedings are a last resort by the landlord or mortgagee to try to sort something out with the tenant or mortgagor. It is always worth trying to avoid reaching this stage, particularly as the costs of issuing Possession Proceedings online (which are almost always awarded against the defendant) are, from 21 March 2016, an extortionate £325 if issued online and even more if the claim is issued on paper.

It is very rarely too late to seek assistance. From receiving the initial notice to just before the Court Bailiff knocks on your door there are numerous occasions when you can get help. If you have received any papers in possession proceedings and want help, please contact the Housing Law Department at Switalskis.




Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.