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Rent arrears for secure occupation contracts - Wales

This fact sheet covers ScotlandYou will need different advice if you live in England & Wales.

Use this fact sheet to:

  • understand the new rules for renting in Wales from 1 December 2022;
  • find out if there is any help you can get with your rent;
  • help you negotiate with your landlord if you have fallen behind with your rent payments; and
  • get advice about dealing with court action.

This fact sheet has information for contract holders of secure occupation contracts in Wales only.

If you have a standard occupation contract, see our Rent arrears for standard occupation contracts – Wales fact sheet for information.

The rules for renting a home in Wales changed on 1 December 2022. If you are unsure what type of contract you have, read the following sections of this fact sheet.

  • New rules for renting a home in Wales
  • Types of occupation contract
  • Check which type of occupation contract you have

If you have a domestic rent agreement for a property in Wales that is not covered by the new rules, contact Shelter Cymru for advice. See  Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

New rules for renting a home in Wales

The rules for renting a home in Wales changed on 1 December 2022.

If you made a new agreement from 1 December 2022 onwards to rent a property to live in as your home and to pay rent to do so, the contract you entered into will usually be called an ‘occupation contract’.

If you had an existing domestic tenancy or licence that was in place immediately before 1 December 2022, in most cases it will have converted to an occupation contract on 1 December 2022.

Under an occupation contract, you (the renter) are known as the ‘contract-holder’.

Occupation contracts should follow the rules set out in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (the new rules). This affects:

  • the type of occupation contract that you are entitled to;
  • what terms must be included in your occupation contact;
  • what information your landlord must give you if you enter into a new occupation contract or your existing agreement is converted to an occupation contract;
  • how your landlord can end the occupation contact.

Types of occupation contract

Under the new rules, there are two main types of occupation contracts. These are:

  • secure occupation contracts; and
  • standard occupation contracts.

Secure occupation contracts

You will usually have a secure occupation contract if your landlord is a community landlord, such as a local authority, a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) or a Private Registered Provider of Social Housing (PRPSH).

The secure occupation contract replaces the secure tenancies issued by local authorities and assured tenancies issued by housing associations that are (RSLs).

Standard occupation contracts.

You will usually have a standard occupation contract if your landlord is a private landlord and not a community landlord.

The standard occupation contract replaces previous tenancy agreements issued by private landlords, such as assured tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies.

There are some exceptions

Under some circumstances, a community landlord can give you a standard occupation contract, rather than a secure occupation contract. For example, this could be where:

  • you have recently entered into a new contract with a community landlord and have been given an introductory standard contract; or
  • you have been provided with certain supported accommodation by a community landlord and given a supported standard contract.

If you have an existing secure contract that is taken over by a private landlord, your contract should continue as a secure contract.

Special rules for lodgers

Certain agreements do not qualify as occupation contracts under the new rules unless your landlord provides a notice saying that they do. This applies, for example, if you are a lodger that shares accommodation with your landlord. For your agreement be an occupation contract, your landlord must give you a notice saying that the agreement is an occupation contract before or at the time you make the agreement.

Special rules for some homeless accommodation

There are special rules that can affect some homelessness accommodation. For example, you may have been given accommodation because you are homeless as part of a local authority’s ‘interim duty’ while it decides whether you are entitled to longer term accommodation (the ‘full duty’). Homeless accommodation provided under a local authority’s interim duty is not given through an occupation contract.

Also, if a local authority arranges for homeless accommodation as part of its homeless duties with another landlord, such as a private landlord, the accommodation will not be given under an occupation contract until 12 months after the local authority completed your homeless assessment unless your landlord gives you notice that it is an occupation contract.

Some agreements cannot be occupation contracts

Most domestic rent agreements are covered by the changes introduced by the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. However, certain tenancies, such as those that provide direct access accommodation, cannot be occupation contracts. Direct access accommodation is very short-term accommodation that is provided by a community landlord, such as a local authority, or by a charity for up to 24 hours at a time to anyone who meets the criteria set by the landlord.

The rules can be complicated. If you are unsure whether your domestic rent agreement is an occupation contract, contact Shelter Cyrmru for advice. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

Check which type of occupation contract you have

If your agreement is covered by the new rules, your landlord must give you a written statement of contract that sets out the key information and terms of your occupation contract. Check the written statement to see what type of occupation contract you have.

  • For new contracts made from 1 December 2022 onwards, your landlord should give you the written statement within 14 days of the day that you were entitled to move into the property.
  • If you had an existing tenancy or licence agreement that converted to an occupation contract on 1 December 2022, your landlord should give you the written statement by 1 June 2023.
  • Your landlord should not charge a fee for providing the written statement. However, if you ask for further copies of the statement, your landlord can charge a reasonable fee.

If you have checked your written statement and are still unsure what type of occupation contract you have or you don’t agree with the type of occupation contract that your landlord has given you, contact Shelter Cyrmru for advice. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

The written statement is an important document

The written statement sets out the rights and responsibilities for you and your landlord under the occupation contract. Check that you agree with the terms included in the written statement. Keep your copy of the statement safe as you may need to look at it again in the future.

If your landlord hasn’t provided you with the written statement within the required timeframe, contact us for advice. You may be entitled to compensation. In some circumstances, it can also limit the actions that your landlord can take to end the occupation contract.

This fact sheet has information for contract holders of secure occupation contracts in Wales only.

Paying your rent

Rent arrears are important because you could lose your home if you do not pay them.

Help with rent payments

Claiming all the benefits you are entitled to can help stop rent arrears from building up.

You might be entitled to help towards your rent from either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. The amount that you could get will depend on many factors, such as whether you rent privately or from the council, are of working age, have any other income and the type of property that you rent. To see how much help you may be entitled to:

  • use the Turn2us online benefit calculator at www.turn2us.org.uk;
  • contact Shelter Cymru; or
  • contact a local advice agency.

While you are making a claim for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, pay as much as you can towards your rent. Also tell your landlord you have made a claim. For more information, see the following Universal Credit and Housing Benefit sections.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is replacing benefits such as Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

If you are already getting any of these benefits, you do not need to move to Universal Credit until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tells you to.

You apply for Universal Credit through an online system. To apply online, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘Universal Credit’.

The amount of your rent payment that you get help with is called the ‘housing costs element’. This is included in your Universal Credit award and is usually paid directly to you. You will need to use part of your Universal Credit to pay your rent. However, in some circumstances, for example if you have missed payments on your rent, you can ask for the housing costs element to be paid directly to your landlord.

If you aren’t able to claim Universal Credit, you may need to make a claim for Housing Benefit.

Universal Credit advance payment

Universal Credit takes five weeks from claim to payment and sometimes longer. The DWP should start paying the housing costs element of your Universal Credit within five weeks. So, if your claim has been delayed, ask for a Universal Credit advance payment. You should get a payment unless there has been a problem processing your claim. For more information, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘Universal Credit advances’.

Housing Benefit

Claiming Housing Benefit can reduce the amount of rent you have to pay.

Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit. However, new Housing Benefit claims can still be made if you have reached State Pension age or you live in certain supported, sheltered or temporary housing.

  • To make a claim, ask your council’s Housing Benefit office for a form. Some councils will also let you apply online or over the phone. When you make a claim, keep a copy of your claim form and any letters you send or receive.
  • In some cases, you may be able to claim Housing Benefit as part of your application for another benefit, such as Pension Credit.
  • For more information, go to www.gov.uk and search for 'Housing Benefit'.

If you are a council tenant, your Housing Benefit will be paid directly to the rent office of your council’s housing department. If you are a housing association or private tenant, your Housing Benefit will be paid directly to you, but you can arrange to have it paid directly to your landlord if you want to. Doing this may make your landlord more willing to come to an arrangement over your arrears, because they will be sure of receiving regular payment.

Interim payments of Housing Benefit

If you are a private or housing association tenant and you are waiting for a Housing Benefit claim to be sorted out, you may be able to ask the council for a payment on account. This is called an ‘interim payment’ of Housing Benefit. You can ask for this if:

  • you have given the council all the information that they need to assess your claim: and
  • 14 days have gone by.

Discretionary housing payment

If the amount of Universal Credit housing costs element or Housing Benefit that you receive doesn't cover all your rent and you cannot afford to make up the difference yourself, ask your council about a discretionary housing payment. This is an amount of money the council can give you to help with housing costs that does not have to be paid back. It is up to the council whether to give you a discretionary housing payment, and if so, how much. It might also be a temporary payment. Ask your council or contact us for advice.

Rules that can affect your benefit

The benefit cap

The ‘benefit cap’ is a limit on how much you can receive in benefits if you and your partner are of working age but are not working. You won't usually be affected by the benefit cap if you are over Pension Credit age. The cap applies if your combined income from certain benefits is over a set limit, and means that the amount of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit you receive may be reduced. If this happens, you will have to make up the difference in rent yourself.

The cap will not apply if anyone in your household receives particular disability-related benefits or some other benefits. Also, it may not apply if you have childcare costs when receiving Universal Credit. For more information go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘Benefit cap’, or contact us for advice.

The under-occupancy rule or ‘bedroom tax’

This rule only applies if you are of working age and rent from the council or a housing association. Your Universal Credit housing costs element or Housing Benefit payment can be reduced if it is considered that you have more rooms than you actually need. Your payment will be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom; or
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

For more information go to Shelter Cymru and search for ‘The bedroom tax’ or contact us for advice.

How can I pay off my rent arrears?

It’s never too early or too late to come to an arrangement to repay your rent arrears. Whatever the situation, don’t delay. Contact your landlord as soon as possible to let them know that you are dealing with the situation.

If you are waiting for your claim for Universal Credit to be sorted out and it is making your arrears worse, contact the DWP and ask for a Universal Credit advance payment.

Contact your local council if you are waiting for a Housing Benefit claim to be sorted out and this is making your rent arrears worse. Ask for a payment on account (an interim payment) if you have been waiting more than 14 days.

See the Universal Credit and Housing Benefit sections for more information about Universal Credit advances and interim payments of Housing Benefit.

Deduction from benefits

If you get Universal Credit, Income Support, Pension Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, you can ask to have a set amount taken out of your benefit and paid directly to your landlord for rent arrears. The amount of the deduction that can be taken from your benefit for rent arrears will depend on whether it is deducted from Universal Credit or another kind of benefit. If you are considering asking for an amount to be taken from your benefit to pay towards your rent arrears, check how much will be taken and that you will have enough money left over to cover your essential living costs. For more information, see GOV.UK or contact us for advice.

Breathing space

If you need time to get debt advice and find a debt solution, you may want to consider applying for breathing space.

Breathing space will stop most types of enforcement and also stop most creditors applying interest and charges for 60 days.

To find out more, see our Breathing space fact sheet.

Have the rent arrears been worked out properly?

Get a breakdown of your rent account from your landlord. Check that all the payments you have made have been added to your account. Ask for regular statements and keep your receipts.

It is also important to check whether you have been overpaid any Housing Benefit. Sometimes the council may add overpaid Housing Benefit to your rent arrears. If the council is your landlord, they cannot treat a Housing Benefit overpayment as rent arrears. If you are a council tenant, you should not be evicted from your home for a Housing Benefit overpayment. If you are not sure if your rent arrears include a Housing Benefit overpayment, contact us for advice.

If you rent from a housing association, the rules on Housing Benefit overpayments being treated as rent arrears are different. Contact Shelter Cymru  or contact us for advice.

How to make an offer

If you have fallen behind with your rent payments, you will usually need to continue paying your normal amount of rent plus something extra towards the arrears.

  • Use Your budget to work out how much you can afford to pay each month towards the arrears.
  • Send your landlord a copy of your budget and make an offer to pay a regular amount towards the arrears. Don’t be afraid to offer a small amount if that is all you can afford.
  • If you get Universal Credit housing costs element  or Housing Benefit, consider asking if you can have it paid directly to your landlord. Your landlord may be more willing to agree to your offer if they know that they will get a regular payment.
  • If you get certain benefits you may be able to have a set amount taken out of your benefit and paid directly to your landlord for rent arrears. See the Deduction from benefits section earlier in this fact sheet.
  • Start paying the amount you have offered straight away.
  • If you cannot afford to pay anything, contact us for advice.

My landlord is refusing to agree to my offer

If your landlord refuses your offer of payment, this does not mean that you will automatically lose your home. If your landlord refuses to accept your offer:

  • start paying the amount you have offered towards the arrears straightaway, plus your normal rent;
  • contact your landlord and use your budget to show that the amount you have offered is all you can afford;
  • keep a record of all payments and letters to and from your landlord; and
  • keep paying your rent and arrears payments.

If your landlord takes action against you or threatens to use bailiffs to make you pay the arrears, contact us for advice.

Can my landlord take the property back?

In most cases, your landlord cannot repossess your home without a court order. However, your landlord may be able to repossess your home without a court order if they believe that you have abandoned the property. If your landlord has sent you a notice saying that they believe you have abandoned your home, see the Abandoned property section later in the fact sheet.

Always get advice if what your landlord is doing or threatening seems unfair. Contact Shelter Cymru. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

Before court action – the possession notice

Before your landlord can take court action, they must give you a formal possession notice. The notice must be in writing and tell you that your landlord wants to end your occupation contract.

The type of notice you get and the amount of time that the notice must give you (the ‘notice period’) before your landlord can apply to court to ask for return of the property depends on the reason why your landlord wants to end the contract.

Your landlord cannot apply to court for an order to repossess your home during the notice period. This means that you should not receive a possession claim from the court during the notice period.

Notices to end an occupation contract

The Welsh Government has produced forms that landlords should use when managing their properties. This includes when a landlord wants to end an occupation contract. We include information about these forms in this fact sheet. A list of these forms can also be found at GOV.Wales.

It is expected that landlords will use these forms, but your landlord can choose to use their own notices if they are ‘substantially to the same effect as the prescribed form’. If you are concerned that your landlord has not given you the correct notice or information, contact Shelter Cymru for advice. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

My landlord wants to end my occupation contract because of rent arrears

This section tells you which type of possession notice you should get and the minimum notice period you should be given if your landlord wants to end your occupation contract because you have rent arrears. If your landlord is ending your occupation contract for another reason, see the later section My landlord wants to end my occupation contract for reasons other than rent arrears.

Breach of contract - rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, your landlord can ask the court to end your occupation contract because you have breached (broken) a condition of your contract by falling behind with your rent payments.

If you have breached your contract by falling behind with your rent, your landlord should send you a possession notice, form RHW23. The notice must:

  • tell you that your landlord plans to start court action to repossess the property because you have breached your occupation contract;
  • give details of the breach; and
  • give you a minimum of one months’ notice.

Remember, your landlord cannot apply to court for an order to repossess your home during the notice period. If your landlord wants to end your occupation contract because of rent arrears, they have up to six months from the date that they gave you the notice to apply to court for possession.

What can I do if I get a notice and want to keep my home?

Getting a possession notice does not mean that you have to leave your home. If you have a secure occupation contract and have not abandoned your home, your landlord will need a court order to force you to leave.

Contact your landlord straight away if you want to keep your home. Try to use the notice period to make an agreement with your landlord. Keep paying your rent and what you have offered towards the arrears. You may be able to avoid court action.

If you believe that your home is or has been unfit to live in, get specialist advice. This is because from 1 December 2022 onwards, you may not have to pay rent for any time that the property is unfit for human habitation. Do not stop paying your rent until you have received specialist advice. The rules are complicated. For advice on whether your home is unfit to live in, contact Shelter Cymru. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet. Useful guidance for tenants is also available on GOV.Wales.

Also be aware that your landlord should follow the Pre-action protocol for social landlords. See the next section.

Pre-action protocol for social landlords

The pre-action protocol for possession claims by social landlords is guidance that must be followed if your landlord is a council, a housing association or other ‘registered social landlord’, and the claim for possession of your home is based on rent arrears. The court will consider whether the protocol has been followed when deciding what order to make. The protocol says your landlord should:

  • contact you and try to agree what you should pay towards the arrears;
  • arrange for your arrears to be paid through direct payments if you are on benefits;
  • help you with any claim you have for Housing Benefit, the housing costs element of Universal Credit or discretionary housing payment;
  • not take possession action if you have given all the evidence needed to process your benefit claim, and you should qualify for benefit; and
  • not take possession action if you keep up with an agreement to pay your rent and an amount towards your arrears.

If your landlord does not follow the protocol and starts court action, you can bring this up at the court hearing. The District Judge may reject (‘strike out’) the landlord’s claim for possession, or delay (‘adjourn’) the court hearing.

Abandoned property

Repossession of the property

In most cases, your landlord cannot repossess your home without a court order. However, your landlord may be able to repossess your home without a court order if they believe that you have abandoned the property and there is a term in your occupation contract that says you must occupy the property as your main home. Your landlord would need to follow a set procedure. This includes sending you a notice form RHW27 which will tell you the following.

  • Your landlord believes you have abandoned the property.
  • You have four weeks (the ‘warning period’) to confirm in writing to the landlord that you have not abandoned the property.
  • Your landlord intends to end the occupation contract at the end of the warning period if they are satisfied that you have abandoned the property.

During the warning period, your landlord should make enquires to check whether you have abandoned the property. At the end of the warning period, if your landlord is satisfied that you have abandoned the property, the landlord can end your occupation contract by giving you a further notice, form RHW28. Your occupation contract will end on the date that the further notice is given to you.

If you have received a notice claiming that you have abandoned your home and you want to keep your occupation contract, contact us for advice straightaway.

Removing a joint contract-holder from the occupation contract

Alternatively, if you are a joint contract-holder, your landlord may be able to end your rights under the occupation contract without a court order if they believe that you are no longer occupying the property. This means that your landlord could exclude you from being part of the occupation contract while still allowing other joint contract-holders to continue with the contract. Your landlord may be able to do this if:

  • there is a term in your occupation contract that says you must occupy the property as your main home;
  • your landlord believes that you are no longer occupying the property and that you do not intend to occupy the property in the future; and
  • your landlord follows the correct process.

As part of the process, your landlord must send you and the other joint contract-holders certain notices and make enquiries to check whether you are occupying or intend to occupy the property in the future.

If your landlord threatens to remove you as a joint contract-holder because they believe you are not occupying the property as your main home and you want to keep your occupation contract, contact us for advice straightaway.

My landlord wants to end my occupation contract for reasons other than rent arrears

The information in this fact sheet focuses on dealing with rent arrears. However, it is important to understand that your landlord may be able to end your occupation contract for other reasons. For example, this may be because your landlord:

  • says that you have breached a condition in your contract, other than by missing rent payments;
  • wants the property back for estate management reasons, such as to redevelop the property or complete building works that cannot be carried out unless they have possession of the property; or
  • wants the property back because you gave the landlord notice that you were ending the contract, but did not leave on the date given in your notice.

Your landlord will still need to send you a possession notice showing why they want to end the occupation contract. In most cases, your landlord will also need to give you a minimum amount of notice before they can start court action to ask the court for possession of the property. The reason why your landlord wants to end your contract will affect the amount of notice you should be given. It will also affect whether the court has the power to allow you to keep your home if your landlord applies to court for possession of the property.

If you have received a notice telling you that your landlord wants to end your occupation contract for a reason other than rent arrears and you want to stay in your home, get specialist advice. This will help you to check the following and decide what to do next.

  • Check that the new rules allow your landlord to use the ground (the reason) they have chosen to send you a possession notice.
  • Check that your landlord has followed the correct procedure, given you the correct information and amount of notice needed for the ground they are using.
  • Check that your landlord has complied with all their duties as a landlord. If they haven’t, you may be able to get your landlord to withdraw the notice or use it as a defence if you landlord starts court action.
  • Check whether the ground that your landlord is using is an ‘absolute’ ground or a ‘discretionary’ ground. This will affect the power that the court has to allow you to stay in the property if your landlord asks the court to give them the property back.

For specialist advice, contact Shelter Cymru. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

Court action for rent arrears – the possession claim

If you have been unable to make an agreement with your landlord to pay the arrears and the time limit on the possession notice has run out, your landlord can ask the court to start possession action (make a possession claim).

The court will send you a claim for possession. This will give you a date and time for a hearing in the County Court. You should get at least 28 days’ notice of the hearing date.

Breach of contract is a discretionary ground.

Even if your landlord starts court action, it does not automatically mean you will lose your home. Breach of contract is a discretionary ground. This means that if your landlord has used this ground because you have rent arrears, the court should not make an order to give the property back to your landlord unless it considers it is reasonable to do so. The court will look at several factors when deciding what is reasonable, such as how any order it makes would affect you and your landlord. The court will also consider:

  • what the breach was for, how often it has happened and how long it lasted;
  • how responsible you are for the breach;
  • whether the breach is likely to happen again; and
  • any action that your landlord has taken to stop or prevent the breach.

However, the court can give the landlord possession of the property if it considers it is reasonable to do so, even if you are no longer in breach of the contract at the date of the hearing.

If your landlord asks the court to start possession action, you should get:

  • a copy of the claim form - N5;
  • the particulars of claim (this sets out your landlord’s reasons for taking possession action against you) - N119; and
  • a defence form - N11R.

Fill in the defence form and return it to the court within 14 days of getting it.

Don’t worry if you have already missed the deadline. You can still send your defence form to the court at any time before the hearing date or ask the court to accept it at the hearing. However, do be aware that if you return the form after the 14-day period, the court may order you to pay any costs caused by the delay. Your landlord may issue their claim using the online service. You can fill in the forms at Possession claim online (PCOL).

Filling in the defence form

It is important to fill in the defence form to give the court a full picture of your finances and what you can afford to pay. It will also give you a chance to explain if you don’t agree with the amount your landlord says you owe.

Check the particulars of claim. It should give:

  • the amount of the rent arrears;
  • details of any agreement that you have made with your landlord to repay the arrears; and
  • information about your circumstances that your landlord is aware of, for example if you get Housing Benefit.

If you do not agree with any of the details, say why on the form.

The form asks you whether you can pay anything towards the arrears. Put down the amount that Your budget shows you can afford to pay, even if your landlord has already refused this offer.

Keep paying your rent and the amount you have offered towards the arrears. This shows the court that you can pay what you are offering.

If you cannot afford to pay anything towards the arrears, contact us for advice.

Use the information from Your budget to fill in the financial details that the form asks for. This will show the court how you have worked out your payment offer. Use the spare boxes for items which are not listed on the form, but are in your budget.

The form also asks about any money you have in bank accounts. If there is money in your account to pay household bills, do not include this in any credit amount you list on the form.

Towards the bottom of the form, there is space to explain why you got into arrears. Use this to tell the court about any circumstances that you think may help your case. You can also use this section if you want to ask the court to give you more time to find somewhere else to live.

Even if your landlord has already refused your offer of payment, contact your landlord again. You may still be able to come to an agreement with your landlord or their solicitor. If you can reach an agreement, the hearing date may be put off (‘adjourned’) to give the agreement a chance to work.

Do you have a counterclaim?

The form asks if you have a counterclaim against your landlord. For example, because:

  • you have been made ill by damp or dangerous conditions;
  • repairs need doing; or
  • your belongings have been damaged, for example by a leaking roof.

If you think you might have a counterclaim, contact Shelter Cymru for advice. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

Is your home unfit to live in?

If you believe that your home is or has been unfit to live in, get specialist advice. This is because from 1 December 2022 onwards, you may not have to pay rent for any time that the property is unfit for human habitation. Do not stop paying your rent until you have received specialist advice. The rules are. For advice on whether your home is unfit to live in, contact Shelter Cymru. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet.

The hearing

You will not be evicted from your home on the day of the hearing.

Attend the hearing unless it has been adjourned or cancelled by the court.

Even if you have already made an agreement with your landlord or managed to clear the arrears, the hearing will still take place unless it has been adjourned or cancelled by the court. Check with the court if you are unsure whether the hearing has been adjourned or cancelled.

If you are unable to go to the hearing because of illness or disability, write to the court to explain your circumstances and ask if a relative or friend can go instead of you. Don’t forget to include the case number in the letter. You will find this on the court form.

The purpose of the hearing is not to find anyone guilty or innocent, but to come to a fair decision for both sides. The court should consider your offer of payment towards the arrears.

At the hearing, you, your landlord or their representative and the District Judge will be present. The District Judge is the person who decides your case. Call the District Judge ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. 

Court duty schemes

The Housing Possession Court Duty schemes provide free legal advice and representation in possession cases at court. If a court duty scheme is available at your court, and you have not already had detailed advice, you should use it.

When you go to court

  • Make short notes about what you want to say at the hearing. Take these with you and refer to them if this helps.
  • If your circumstances have changed since you filled in the defence form, work out a new budget. Take three copies of your budget with you, one for you, one for the District Judge and one for the landlord or their representative.
  • Don’t be pressured into offering more than you can afford. The District Judge may agree with you, and allow you to pay less than the landlord or their representative wants.
  • If English is not your first language, you can take an interpreter with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach your landlord or their representative before the hearing to see if you can come to an agreement to present to the District Judge. 
  • Answer questions clearly, calmly and fully. This will help the District Judge make his or her decision. Remember, you have as much right to put your case to the court as the landlord has.
  • Remember to tell the District Judge if you do not think your landlord has followed the pre-action protocol. See the earlier section Pre-action protocol for possession claims by social landlords earlier in this fact sheet.

Orders the District Judge might make

At the hearing, the District Judge can make one of the following orders.

  • An order dismissing your landlord’s action, for example, because the court decides that the ground used by your landlord does not apply to your case.
  • An order putting off (‘adjourning’) the case. For example, if your landlord is asking for possession because you have breached your contract by not paying your rent, the court may adjourn the case as it thinks fit. The court may do this to give you time to provide extra information to support your case, or to pay off your arrears by sorting out a claim for Universal credit or Housing Benefit.
  • An order for possession of the property to be given to your landlord, but where possession is ‘postponed’ on conditions the court feels are reasonable. This means that if you keep to the court’s order (which is normally that you pay your ongoing rent plus a set amount towards the arrears each month), the court will not allow your landlord to evict you from your home.
  • An order for outright possession of the property. This means that at the end of a set period, for example 14 days, your landlord can take the next step towards repossessing your home. See Eviction – what can I do? later in this fact sheet.

What should I ask for?

  • If you can show the court that it would be unreasonable to make a possession order, you should ask the District Judge to dismiss the landlord’s claim for possession. For example, this might be because your arrears are due to a delay in your benefit claim or you do not believe that your landlord has followed the pre-action protocol.
  • Ask for an adjournment if you can pay all the arrears in a short time, for example, by sorting out your benefit claim.
  • If you can’t pay the arrears in a short time, and the amount of arrears is correct, make an offer of payment based on what you can afford. Do not be afraid to offer a very small amount if it is all you can afford.
  • If the District Judge thinks your offer is fair, he or she is likely to make a postponed order for possession. As long as you keep paying your normal rent plus the amount the court orders towards the arrears each month, your landlord can take no further action.

If the court will not accept any of these arrangements, the District Judge can make an outright possession order. This will give you a set time before your landlord can apply to the court to evict you. If you need to, ask the District Judge to give you more time to find somewhere else to live.

What if I can't pay the order?

If at any time you find you cannot pay the amount which the court has ordered, you must go back to the court and ask for the order to be changed. Use form N244, which you can get online or from the court office. There is a fee to pay unless you are on certain benefits or a low income. See Eviction – what can I do? later in this fact sheet. You should also contact your landlord and try to make a new agreement. Contact us for advice.

Court forms online

You can find most court forms using the court form finder on the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmcts. You can fill in application forms online and print them off to sign and send to the court.

Eviction – what can I do?

The court will not take action to evict you unless asked to by your landlord. Contact your landlord straight away if:

  • you have not kept up the payments under a postponed order for possession; or
  • the time given on an outright order for possession has run out.

Try to make an arrangement with your landlord. If you cannot reach an agreement, your landlord can apply to the court for a ‘warrant for possession’. You will get a 'notice of eviction' from the court bailiffs, which tells you the date and time when the bailiffs will come to evict you. In most cases, you must be given 14 days' notice of the eviction date.

You may be able to stop the eviction, but you must act quickly.

If you need further time, or want to make a new offer to pay the arrears, you may be able to apply to court for the warrant to be suspended. Use form N244 to ask the court to suspend the warrant. You can get this form online or from the court office.

Court forms online

You can find most court forms using the court form finder on the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmcts. You can fill in application forms online and print them off to sign and send to the court.

When you fill in the N244, you should explain what you want the court to do. You can ask the court to suspend the warrant of eviction for the following reasons.

  • To ask the court to give you more time to find somewhere else to live.
  • To make a new offer of payment on your arrears.

If you are making a new offer to pay your arrears, make sure you don’t offer more than you can afford. Work out a new budget and send a copy with the N244.

There will be a fee to pay to make this application. If you are on benefits or a low income, you may not have to pay the fee, or may get a discount.

High court action

If your landlord has asked for your case to be transferred to the High Court, contact us for advice straightaway.

How to fill in an N244

You need to get your completed form to the court as soon as possible, to allow time for the court to arrange a hearing. When you fill in the N244, you can ask the court to suspend the warrant of possession for the following reasons.

  • To make a new offer of payment on your arrears.
  • To ask the court to give you more time to find somewhere else to live.

The following points might be helpful when you fill in the form:

  • Include the claim number of the case, and details of your landlord.
  • Question 1  Fill in your name here.
  • Question 2 You will normally tick the box that says ‘defendant’.
  • Question 3 Explain here what you want the court to do and why. Explain why you have not been able to pay, and give details of any new offer of payment. Make sure you don’t offer more than you can afford. Work out a new budget and send a copy with the N244.
  • Question 4 This asks if you have attached a draft of the order you are applying for. We would suggest that you only tick ‘yes’ if you have had help from a solicitor or advice agency with drafting it.
  • Question 5 This asks if you want to have the application dealt with at a hearing. Most applications will be dealt with at a hearing so we suggest that you tick ‘yes’ here.
  • Questions 6, 7 and 8 It is safer to leave these blank, rather than guess how long a hearing will last, or what level of judge you need.
  • Question 9 Only fill in this question in if there is someone you want the court to send a copy of the application to, such as a solicitor.
  • Question 10 You should tick the box to explain what evidence you will be relying on to support your case. If you are going to court on your own, tick the box saying you are relying on ‘the evidence set out in the box below’. You need to include any evidence you have to support your case. You should also include any information you have about your possible defence. Give reasons if your application has been delayed.
  • Question 11 Fill in this question if you want to make the court aware that you (or someone giving evidence on your behalf) is vulnerable.

Once you have filled in the form;

  • sign the statement of truth at the bottom of the form; and
  • send the complete form back to the court.

Remember to keep a copy of the form.

Court fees

There will be a fee to pay to make this application. In certain circumstances, you may not have to pay the fee, or may get a discount.  For more information, see our Help with court fees fact sheet.

Act quickly

You should make your application as far ahead of your eviction date as possible. Make it at least three days in advance if possible. The court may refuse to accept your application if it is not within this time, but it is able to accept late applications under court rules. If your application is refused, contact us for advice.

What will happen next?

The court will set a date for a new hearing, usually before the eviction date. You must go to this hearing or the court is unlikely to suspend the warrant.

If any further warrants are issued, you may still be able to ask the court to suspend them, for example to give you time to find somewhere else to live.

If the court refuses your application to suspend the warrant, your eviction will go ahead. If this happens to you, contact Shelter Cymru or contact us for advice. See Useful contacts at the end of this fact sheet. 

After you are evicted your landlord may:

  • ask you to pay the rent you still owe; and
  • ask you to pay for repairing any damage done to your home while you were renting it.

Contact us for advice if you are unsure whether you owe the amount that you are being asked to pay or are unable to pay what is owed.

Try to move before eviction day

Try to move out before the eviction date, because the bailiffs can force their way in if they have to and change the locks. If your furniture and possessions are not removed by the time of the eviction, you should make arrangements for their removal with your landlord.

Getting rehoused

If you think you may lose your home within the next 56 days, contact your local council for help as a homeless person. Whether the council has to offer you permanent rehousing will depend upon your circumstances. In most cases, the council must give you advice and assistance.

The council will look at whether you:

  • are homeless or threatened with homelessness;
  • are eligible for help;
  • are in a priority need group; and
  • you have a local connection with the area in which you have applied for help. 

The council may also check if you deliberately did something that made you lose your home (this is called ‘intentional homelessness’).

Get specialist advice

The rules about homelessness are complicated. If you think you may lose your home, get advice as soon as possible. Contact Shelter Cymru, a local advice centre or contact us for advice. See Useful contacts below for details.

Our Advice if you are worried about losing your home fact sheet also includes useful information.

Useful contacts

Shelter Cymru For expert housing advice if you live in Wales. Phone: 0800 049 5495 www.sheltercymru.org.uk

Citizens Advice Independent, free advice on issues such as debt, housing and benefits. Phone: 0800 702 2020 www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales

Other fact sheets that may help you

Advice if you are worried about losing your home fact sheet

Breathing space fact sheet

Coronavirus advice and support fact sheet

Help with court fees fact sheet