What to be aware of when taken to court for rent arrears.

If you have rent arrears, your landlord may try and evict you. This is called seeking possession. To do this, in most cases they will need to follow a procedure which involves getting a court order. They can't make you leave your home without going to court first. If they do make you leave without taking you to court first, this is against the law.

In some cases, even though they take you to court to evict you, they may agree to let you stay in the property as long as you agree to pay back the money you owe and you don't fall behind with your rent again.

The procedure your landlord must follow if they want to evict you for rent arrears is:

  • a pre-action protocol. These are steps some landlords must take before starting court action. It only applies to social housing landlords, such as local authorities and housing associations, not to private landlords
  • send you a warning, called a notice of seeking possession or a notice to quit
  • send you court papers
  • get a court order called a possession order
  • get a warrant of possession
  • get a notice of eviction sent to you by the bailiffs.

If you're a private tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord may be able to use a different, slightly quicker procedure than the one described on this page.

It’s important to know what type of tenancy you have so that you can work out exactly what steps your landlord has to take before evicting you.

You can also go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice about the type of tenancy you have. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those which give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Even if your landlord has already started action to evict you, it’s not too late to try and come to an agreement to pay back what you owe.