What is an accelerated possession order?
An accelerated possession order may be sought by a landlord who wants to take possession of a property – usually because the tenant either consistently refuses to pay the rent, or is unable to continue doing so. The landlord must apply to court for an order.
When can a landlord apply for an accelerated possession order?
Before a landlord can apply to court for an order, it must serve what is known as a ‘section 21’ notice on the tenant. This Notice informs the tenant that the landlord requires possession and gives the tenant 2 months’ notice to quit the property. The 2-month period must expire before the landlord makes an application to the court.
In addition, there must be a written tenancy agreement (a contract between the landlord and the tenant) in existence and it must be an assured shorthold tenancy. A verbal agreement between the parties is not sufficient, and precludes the landlord from being able to apply for an accelerated possession order.
What’s the procedure?
The landlord should make an application to the county court situated in the district within which the property is located. This is done by completing possession claim form N5B and filing it with the court. A copy of the section 21 notice served on the tenant must also be exhibited with the court papers, along with a copy of the original tenancy agreement (and any subsequent ones).
The tenant is then sent a copy of the claim form and court documents, together with a defence form. Any defence must be filed within 14 days – failing which the landlord can ask the court that the accelerated possession order be made.
What should I do if an application for an accelerated possession order has been made against me?
You must read the landlord’s claim form carefully, and ideally take legal advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice before responding. The court may take into consideration any circumstances that make up a case for exceptional hardship (section 89 of the Housing Act 1980). The following are examples of exceptional hardship:
- If there are any children involved and alternative accommodation cannot be accessed immediately
- If you or any other member of the household is ill or pregnant
- If you or any other member of the household has a disability
This list is not exhaustive and other circumstances may also amount to exceptional hardship.
What will the court take into consideration?
The court will not consider whether it is reasonable or fair to make the order sought, and there will not usually be a court hearing for the granting of accelerated possession orders, unless:
- The court is not satisfied that all procedures have been complied with in the application process
- The landlord did not protect your deposit in a government backed scheme as required
- The s21 Notice expired on the incorrect date
- The tenant makes a case for exceptional hardship (see above)
Where a case for exceptional hardship has been made out by the tenant, possession may be delayed for a period of up to 6 weeks. If neither of the above grounds are made out by the tenant, however, a possession order will usually take immediate effect when the court grants the order.
Even if you have no grounds on which to defend yourself, you can ask the court to delay the eviction for up to 42 days.