Step 3: send your defence to the court
Check all the facts are correct before you send your defence.
Make a copy or take a picture of the form and other documents you’ve included for your records.
You need to send 3 copies of everything to the court - they’ll keep one, return one to you and send one to your landlord.
You should send your defence to the court or drop it off in person. Get free proof of postage if you post them. The court’s address will be on the court papers you were sent.
Make sure your defence arrives at the court within 14 days of when you got the court papers. If you send them late you might not be allowed to challenge your eviction or you might have to pay extra fees.
If you can’t meet the deadline
If it’s nearly 14 days since you got the court papers, contact the court to ask if there’s a quick way to send your defence, for example by email.
If you’ve missed the deadline, you can sometimes send your defence late - it might still be accepted. If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and you were sent an ‘accelerated possession claim’ it’s very important to act quickly because the court might make a decision about your case without a hearing.
Call the court to check whether the judge has already made a decision on your case. If they haven’t, say you’re sending your defence late and ask them to write this down on your court file.
When you send the defence, it’s a good idea to include a letter saying why you sent it late, for example you were in hospital.
Send a copy of your defence directly to your landlord at the same time - this shows the court you’re trying to avoid delays, which might mean they’re more likely to accept your defence. It will also mean there’s less chance of you having to pay extra fees.
If you’re given a court date before you send your defence
You can go to the hearing and ask for longer to get your case ready - this is called an ‘adjournment’. You should explain why you need extra time to prepare your defence, for example that you’re waiting for legal advice or you’ve been away from home.
You should say you want to defend the case using a discrimination defence, for example that your landlord is evicting you unfairly because of your disability. You should also mention any other defences that you have.
If you’re counterclaiming
You’ll need to do some extra things because your counterclaim counts as a new legal claim.
Tell the Equality and Human Rights Commission
Write to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to say you’ve started a claim. Sometimes they can get involved in the case - the legal term for this is intervening.
Pay the court fee
You’ll need to pay a fee if you’re claiming for money. The cost depends on how much money you’re asking for - check the costs on GOV.UK.
If you are making a claim for something which is not about money, like an injunction, you’ll need to pay a fee of £308.
If you’re claiming for money and for something else you might need to pay both fees.
If you’re on a low income, you might get your fees reduced or you might not have to pay any. Check if you can get help with your court costs on GOV.UK.
It’s best to try to pay the fee in person at the court. If you don’t pay the correct court fee, the court might not allow you to make your counterclaim.
You might be able to pay with a debit or credit card over the phone - check with your local court first. Find out your court’s contact details on GOV.UK.
If you haven’t filled in your form properly or you have to pay a fee and don’t, the court might not let you make your counterclaim.
After you’ve sent your defence to the court
The process is different if your landlord’s using the accelerated procedure – check if it says ‘accelerated procedure’ at the top of the claim form.
If your landlord is using the accelerated procedure
The court will look at your defence form. They’ll either:
- issue a possession order – this means that you’ll have to leave your home
- give you a date to go to court – this is known as a possession hearing
The court will usually arrange a hearing if it looks like your landlord might have discriminated against you. It will also arrange a hearing if there’s a problem with your landlord’s paperwork or they’ve made a mistake.
If you have a possession hearing, you'll get a letter telling you when and where the hearing is.
If your landlord isn’t using the accelerated procedure
The court will tell you when it will look at the case for the first time - this is called the 'review date'.
You can find the review date in the ‘notice of review’. The court will send you the notice of review either:
- at the same time as the claim form
- after it gets your defence
At the review, the court will decide if there will be a court hearing – this is known as a possession hearing.
Coronavirus - if your landlord goes to court to evict you
Your landlord has to follow coronavirus guidelines and rules if they want to evict you – check if your landlord has followed the rules.
You should talk to an adviser as soon as possible if:
- you get letters or paperwork from the court
- bailiffs try to evict you
If your landlord started court action against you before 3 August 2020, they have to send you a letter before they can continue with their court claim. This letter is called a ‘reactivation notice’ – you can check what to do if you get a reactivation notice.
If your landlord started the claim after 3 August 2020, talk to an adviser.
Your landlord might write to you replying to what you wrote - this is called a ‘reply to the defence’. They might not write to you if the court hearing is soon.
If you’re also counterclaiming, your landlord should write to you replying to what you’ve counterclaimed - this is called a ‘defence to counterclaim’.
If you’ve got a ‘reply to the defence’ or a ‘defence to counterclaim’ letter you should read it carefully. Your landlord might give more detail about why they disagree with you. For example, they might say:
- the discrimination didn’t happen
- your situation isn’t covered by the Equality Act 2010
- they can justify the discrimination
You should think about how you’ll reply to them in court. Think about whether the evidence you have will be good enough to argue against what they’re saying.
Don’t worry if you have the same kind of evidence as the other side - for example, if it's just your word against theirs and there’s no independent evidence. The judge could still decide to accept your side of the story.