How to Challenge an Eviction
Can You Appeal Against Eviction?
As can be expected, receiving a notice for eviction can be distressing for tenants, particularly if they were expecting to remain in the rental property for the foreseeable future. Of course this does little to help the effected tenants know where to turn when trying to remedy the situation; however, if they are wishing to challenge the eviction they must respond to the court within 14 days of receiving the court papers. When challenging the eviction proceedings the tenant will be expected to comprehensively detail their reasoning for doing so through the defence form provided alongside the section 21 notice of eviction.
The tenant facing the eviction proceeding will be required to detail not only their justification for challenging the section 21 notice, but how they are taking steps to address the situation, alongside any reasoning that demonstrates why they should be permitted to remain within the rental property. Because of the nature of a section 21 notice, a landlord will be obligated to detail the specific “grounds” on which the residents of the rental property have breached the specific terms established within the tenancy agreement. With this in mind the tenant should address each of these grounds within their response to the eviction notice. The landlord’s justification for filling the notice will be thoroughly detailed in the court papers that come alongside the eviction notice. It is essential that the tenant scrutinises these papers, ensuring that all of the evidence submitted by the landlord demonstrates the correct representation of events, whilst being absent of any misleading information. Any errors made by the landlord within these court papers will once again work in the tenants favour and should be corrected in the tenant’s response when challenging the eviction.
Perhaps the most common reason for tenants currently in danger of facing eviction proceedings, even rent arrears can be defended when challenging an eviction in court. As can be appreciated in the current financial climate, redundancies and reduced working hours have led to a widespread reduction in income, a factor that cannot be ignored by the courts during your appeal. Additionally, if you have contacted your landlord in efforts to establish a repayment plan, negotiate a period in which a reduced rental figure could be paid, or another mutually beneficial arrangement then this will demonstrate to the courts that you have taken action to improve the situation; something that could result in them delaying any verdict on whether the eviction should take place. Similarly, if the tenant has contacted the local authority to make an application for financial support in the form of universal credit of housing benefits this will be greatly favourable to their case.
Whilst this is arguably less common, in certain circumstance the courts can decide to allow the tenant more time before they should be required to vacate the rental property. Typically this will be afforded to residents that would face “exceptional hardship” if they were required to vacate the property by the usual deadline of fourteen days. If a tenant facing eviction is able to convince the courts to grant them additional time within the rental, the date by which they are obliged to vacate could be pushed back by up to six weeks. With this being said the decision to do so is up to the discretion of the court and will typically regard any illnesses or disabilities the tenant may face, alongside the specific grounds on which the section 21 notice has been filed. However, postponing the eviction may not be the only way in which the courts could allow you to stay in the property for an additional period of time; potentially permitting you to continue letting the property if you can satisfy criteria established by the landlord.
Once the tenant has submitted their appeal within the 14 day window, providing the landlord is pursuing eviction through the accelerated procedure, the courts will consider the evidence supplied by the occupant and either issue the landlord with a possession order, legally compelling he tenant to vacate the rental property; or provide the tenant with a date for the possession hearing.
If however, your landlord is not using the accelerated eviction procedure then once the court has received your appeal it will issue a “notice of review”; a date one with a review hearing will take place. The review hearing will dictate if a possession hearing will take place to allow the landlord to obtain a possession order.
Appealing a Possession Order?
If a tenant wishes to make an appeal against a possession order, their intent to do so must be made clear, with the appeal being lodged within 21 days of the possession order being made. A tenant would be able to make an appeal against the court granted possession order providing that the owner of the rental property neglected to comply with the appropriate eviction process or they believe they have sufficient evidence to challenge the court’s decision.
However, before any real ground can be gained the tenant must first obtain the permission to appeal the possession order. The resident of the rental property can make this application to the judge during the initial possession hearing, although if this is dismissed at this time the tenant may be able to make the case to the appeal court.
Typically the tenant will be granted permission to appeal the decision to enact a possession order where there would be an increased chance that the appeal would be successful. Alongside being able to provide any relevant documents that would support their case the tenant would also be required to deliver a transcription of their initial court hearing where the possession order was granted.
If the tenant’s appeal against the possession order is successful, the court could rule that the order be set aside, suspend the date on which the possession order can be executed or alter the specific terms that comprise the possession order.
Warrant of Eviction
If the owner of the rental property is successful in gaining a possession order yet the tenant does not leave by the established date, the landlord will need to obtain a warrant of eviction to remove the tenant. If the landlord is granted a warrant of eviction by the county court they will be empowered to employ county court bailiffs to enforce the warrant and repossess the rental property.
The warrant served to the tenant will clarify the exact date and time at which the eviction will take place, alongside another notice from the county court bailiffs reaffirming this information to ensure that there can be no doubt as to how long the tenant is able to remain in the rented property. If the date established on both of these notices arrives and the tenant is yet to vacate the property, the county court bailiffs will remove them and their belongings.
In the instance that the landlord requests that the case is moved from the hands of the county court to be dealt with by the high court the tenant will be notified. In addition if enforcement action through high court bailiffs is pursued by the landlord, the tenant will be required to have received at least two weeks’ notice prior to their arrival.
Suspending a Warrant of Eviction
Even at this late stage of the eviction process the occupant of a rental property are still able to challenge the eviction by making an appeal to the courts to suspend the warrant. If the tenant is successful in having the warrant of eviction suspended then the eviction could be put on hold for an indefinite period. With this being said the tenant will need to make a compelling case for this to transpire, revealing any steps that have been made to remedy the situation and work with the landlord to reach a more positive outcome for both parties of the rental agreement.
Setting Aside a Warrant of Eviction
Tenants challenging eviction proceedings where the landlord has pursued a warrant of eviction may also be able to have the court set the warrant aside. The occupant of the rental property is able to make such an application regardless of if the eviction has yet taken place, however if successful the warrant for eviction will be nullified. With this being said, the court will only typically grant this outcome if the warrant has been wrongfully issued, if a notice of eviction was not provided, or the landlord misled the court by falsifying any of the information they provided to the court.
Mistakes Landlord’s Make When Serving Eviction Notices
It is essential for landlords and tenants to understand the conditions under which a section 21 notice can be served; if the landlord is found to be in breach of these criteria then it is likely that their section 21 notice will not be upheld. When issuing a resident of a rental property with a section 21 notice the landlord is legally obliged to provide their tenants with a minimum amount of notice before the notice can be enacted. Whilst the numerous changed to the rental landscape have seen the minimum amount of notice landlord are required to give their tenants fluctuate several times in recent memory, typically this notice period is two months. In addition to this the landlord will also be required to clearly establish a moving date that cannot be before the final day of the rental period established in the tenancy agreement.
Further to this the landlord must have provided the tenants with appropriate documentation at the start of the fixed term of the tenancy. All new tenants should be provided with the most recent copy of the rental’s energy performance certificate, offering renters a clear understanding of how environmentally friendly their property is and how much it could cost to run their future home. Alongside this the occupants of the rental property must also be given the most recent copy of the government’s “How to Rent” guide, allowing tenants to have a more informed renting experience, detailing their rights and responsibilities as a renter, alongside where they are able to turn if they need support throughout the eviction process, deposit disputes or if they begin to accumulate rental arrears. The owner of the rental property is also obliged to provide their tenants with the most recent gas and electrical safety certificates or their pursuit of a section 21 eviction will not be supported.
It is also worth noting that if the landlord has neglected to attend to the regular maintenance, of any repairs highlighted by the occupants then as they themselves will have breached the terms of the tenancy agreement, their section 21 notice will not be upheld. With this in mind a landlord cannot be held liable for any damages to the structure or interior of the rental property that was not brought to their attention by the tenants, and if beyond wear and tear may risk deductions being made from the tenancy deposit.
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