Often when a tenant has a Possession Order made against them they think there is nothing more they can do to save their home.
This isn’t always the case. A landlord is required to enforce a Possession Order by obtaining a Warrant for Eviction. A tenant can make an application to have that Warrant suspended and a Judge has the discretion to suspend a Warrant on terms such as the payment of rent arrears or complying with other terms of the Tenancy Agreement. Generally a court will only evict if there is a serious breach of a Suspended Possession Order or if possession has been made on mandatory grounds originally, which would take away any discretion a Judge would have to suspend the Warrant.
It is important that any application to suspend the warrant is made as soon as the warrant for eviction is received as a tenant will generally only get three weeks notice of an eviction date. Any application should be made 2 clear days before a warrant is due to be executed although in exceptional circumstances the court can accept an application on the day of the eviction as long as it is made ahead of the bailiffs appointment.
It is also possible to make an application to set aside a Possession Order. This can be done in circumstances where a tenant has a good reason for not attending the original hearing or if they are able to place some information before the court which was not available to the court at the hearing or if the court has been misled in some way. The application must be made promptly and there must have been reasonable prospects of successfully defending the original proceedings.
In some circumstances it may be possible to appeal against the Possession Order. I recently represented a tenant who felt that the Judge hadn’t given her the opportunity to present her defence. The tenant had been acting in person.
I filed an appeal on behalf of the tenant and obtained the transcript of the court Judgment. It was arguable after reading the Judgment that the Judge had not considered all of the family’s circumstances before making the Possession Order. The appeal succeeded giving the tenant another opportunity to defend the possession proceedings.
Any application to set aside a Possession Order or appeal against a final decision must be made as soon as possible. There is a time limit of 21 days after the judgment for filing an appeal although in some circumstances an application can be made to extend the time for filing the appeal. It is still important to act as swiftly as possible to avoid any unnecessary difficulties
It is always important to obtain legal advice as soon as you are at risk of possession proceedings being issued against you to give you the best opportunity of saving your home. However, legal advice and assistance can be sought at any stage of the proceedings, even after a Possession Order has been made. There may still be options available to you to save your home.
By Amy Tagoe, solicitor in the housing law team
Stephensons has a dedicated housing department which can give specialist advice and assistance to people facing eviction proceedings and who are at risk of losing their home.