5.7 Applying To Court For Possession — Standard Procedure
As soon as the relevant notice period expires it is possible for the landlord either to apply to the court in person or to instruct a solicitor to do so.
Only the landlord personally, or their solicitor, can sign the court papers. A common reason for possession claims being rejected by the court is that they are signed by a letting agent. A letting agent can help the landlord draft the paperwork, but they cannot sign on the landlord’s behalf and they do not have a right to represent the landlord at court in the landlord’s absence. A landlord who is likely to be absent from the UK will need to instruct a solicitor to commence legal action if they wish to be represented in their absence.
After proceedings have been issued at court there is normally a waiting period of at least a month for a court hearing. The tenant is not required to vacate the property until there is a court order requiring them to do so (although they will sometimes simply leave during this period). If a landlord attempts to evict a tenant before the court order is made, they are likely to commit a criminal — and imprisonable — offence.
If the court orders possession, the tenant will have to leave on the date specified in the court order. This is called an absolute possession order.
If the court makes a suspended possession order and the tenant breaches the conditions of it, the landlord may apply to the court for an absolute possession order or a warrant for possession, depending on the terms of the suspended order. If the landlord intends to apply for a warrant after a suspended order, permission from the court is required first. Frequently the tenant will then apply to the court for a ‘stay of execution’ which may be granted by the judge if the tenant is able to present sufficient evidence of their willingness and capability to comply with the original or revised terms of the order or that something has occurred that has led to the tenant being unable to comply with the original terms. This may have been caused because the tenant had been unable to obtain advice before the previous hearing.