Understanding a notice of seeking possession
I have received a ‘Notice of Seeking Possession’ – what does this mean?
A Notice of Seeking Possession (“Notice”) is a legal warning that you have broken the terms and conditions of your Tenancy Agreement. It is the first stage of legal action and means that we may apply to the County Court for possession of your home. This could lead to you losing your home and being evicted.
If you do not understand the Notice it is important you speak to us as soon as possible so we can explain it in more detail. You may also like to take independent legal advice through the Citizens Advice Bureau, a solicitor or a Law Centre.
Below are some of the frequently asked questions and answers - please note these only apply to assured/lifetime tenants, as for our tenants who are on a Fixed Term/Assured Shorthold/Starter Tenancy, we don’t have to specify why we are evicting you as long as we follow the right procedure.
Here is a breakdown of a Notice of Seeking Possession document: Notice of Seeking Possession.
Why have you served this Notice on me?
The law sets out the reasons why a housing association tenant can be evicted.
The Notice tells you why we are taking this action and which parts of your Tenancy Agreement we consider you have broken.
For assured tenants, we have to demonstrate there are serious reasons for taking further action, especially legal action. These reasons are called 'Grounds for Possession'. These are detailed in Section 4 of the Notice.
Usually, before we serve a Notice, we will have already contacted you, discussed the behaviour we consider to be a breach of your Tenancy Agreement and advised you of what changes should be made in order for you to keep your tenancy.
Some of the reasons why we might serve a Notice on you could be:
- You have not paid your rent;
- You or anyone living in your home have caused nuisance, annoyance or harassment or been convicted of a criminal offence;
- You have caused damage to your home.
We must prove there is at least one Ground to evict you and provide evidence to the Court to prove this. The Grounds are split into two types. These are called ‘Mandatory’ Grounds and ‘Discretionary’ Grounds;
- ‘Mandatory’ Grounds – most likely to be used by us in cases of persistent rent arrears and serious anti-social behaviour. If we prove you have breached one of the conditions of your Tenancy Agreement the Court has no choice but to make an order to evict you;
- ‘Discretionary’ Grounds – the Court has the choice of whether to make an order to evict you or give you chance to make a change.
Can I do anything to stop it going further?
The Notice is valid for 12 months from the date it is served, however we cannot start legal action until 28 days after the date of the Notice. The Notice will tell you the date it starts and when the 28 days are over. These are detailed in Section 5 of the Notice.
Unless the Notice is served on ‘mandatory grounds’, or we consider the behaviour is very serious and unacceptable, the Notice can provide you with the opportunity to put things right and avoid court action. Please contact us when you have received the Notice, and we will discuss this with you.
For example, if your pet has been causing a nuisance or your garden is very untidy but after you receive the Notice you take action to resolve this, then we may not take further legal action, as long as in the future you behave according to the terms of your Tenancy Agreement.
Once the 28 days have passed we can make an application to the County Court for possession of your home. If we decide to seek possession of your home we must prove to the Court that one or more of the Grounds exist. The reasons for serving the Notice are detailed in Section 3 of the Notice.
We cannot stop legal proceedings once we have made the Court application, however we can agree to an adjournment on terms rather than applying for possession of your home. This could happen if you come to an agreement with us before or at the Court hearing.
What happens in Court?
We will give details to the Court of the reasons why we are asking for possession of your home. If the Ground is nuisance for example, we will explain how and when this has happened, with details of any complaints and evidence such as photographs or statements from the police or neighbours. We will normally also ask the Court to award us costs, this means you could end up paying for our legal costs for taking you to Court. We could ask the court for a Possession Order, a Suspended Possession Order or the Court could adjourn the case.
The Court will decide whether to give us possession of your home based on the evidence that is presented by us and any defence you provide.
Can I take someone to represent me in Court?
Yes, we would always advise you to seek independent legal advice and representation. You can bring along anyone you wish to represent you. The Citizens Advice Bureau can offer you help, advice and practical support. Alternatively you may wish to speak to a solicitor to represent you and speak to us on your behalf.
What is a Possession Order?
A Possession Order, which is granted by the Court ends your tenancy and gives us the legal power to evict you from your home. The Court will decide a date when the Possession Order comes into force, this is generally 28 days from the Court date. We have to apply for a Warrant for Eviction before we can evict you and this is served by the Court Bailiff. The application for the Warrant costs a further amount of money which you have to pay.
What is a Suspended Possession Order?
A Suspended Possession Order can be granted by the Court. This means that as long as you continue to keep to certain conditions, you can continue to live in your home.
What happens if the Court adjourns the case?
The Court can adjourn a case for a number of reasons. For example the Judge might believe a longer time slot is needed to hear the case. Usually we would apply to Court for another date to continue with the legal proceedings.
What happens if I break the agreement I made in Court?
If we have been granted a Suspended Possession Order and you break your agreement, depending on the circumstances, we will return to Court to obtain a Possession Order and eviction proceedings will follow.
What happens if I am evicted?
You may be considered to be intentionally homeless by the Local Authority and any other housing provider as a result of being evicted, however this depends on your personal circumstances. If a Possession Order is granted to us, we will always inform the Local Authority who might be able to offer you help and advice about your housing situation.