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Step 4: prepare for the review date and court hearing

This advice applies to England

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.

The eviction process is different if your landlord is 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 might give you a date to go to court – this is called a ‘possession hearing’.

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'. At the review date it will decide if there should be a possession hearing.

If there’s a 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

Your landlord should send you a copy of all the documents the court will look at – this is called the ‘bundle’. If you haven’t got the bundle 2 weeks before the review date, tell the court – you can find the contact details of the court on GOV.UK.

You can talk to a free legal adviser on the review date – they’re called the ‘duty adviser’. Before the review date, read the letters from the court and make sure you know how to contact the duty adviser on the review date.

Check what happens on the review date

You don’t need to go to court – but you should make sure you can talk on the phone.

It’s worth talking to the duty adviser even if you’ve already got advice. They can talk to your landlord for you. They might be able to get your landlord to agree to pause or stop the eviction.

If you and your landlord can’t agree, the court will look at all the documents. If there’s a problem with your landlord’s documents, the court might pause or stop the eviction.

If there’s no problem with the documents, you’ll have to go to a court hearing called a ‘possession hearing’. The hearing will be at least 4 weeks after the review date.

On the review date, you can ask the court to send you and your landlord to mediation if you think it would help. This means a trained person called a mediator will talk to you by phone - they’ll try to help you and your landlord agree what to do. Mediation is free and it might mean you don’t have to go to a possession hearing.

If you want to try mediation, tell the duty adviser. If your landlord agrees, the court will arrange mediation with the ‘Rental Mediation Service’ before the possession hearing. You can find out more about mediation on GOV.UK.

Preparing for your possession hearing

The court will tell you when your hearing is and where you need to go for it.

You’ll have to prepare a few things before you actually go to court. Make sure you complete everything at the right times - if you don’t it could affect your chances of winning or mean you have to pay extra costs.

It’s important that you attend the hearing even if you’ve not managed to complete and return the paperwork. You need to be prepared to explain why you think you have a defence to your landlord’s claim for possession.

You should make sure you take any key documents that help your case to show the judge if you need to and to help show that you have a genuine defence to the claim.  

If you have rent arrears, pay as much as you can to reduce them before the hearing. Be prepared to explain what further payments you can make and by when.

At the first hearing the court will either make a decision on your case or give instructions about how the case should go forward - these are called ‘case management directions’. The court should do this if you can show that your reasons for defending the claim are substantial. If they give directions there will be another hearing at a later date.

The rules that deal with this are rule 55.8(1) and (2) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Asking for what you need

If the court decides to make directions you can use them to ask for things like the witnesses you want and how long you need to prepare your case.

For example you could ask for:

  • enough time to get statements from your witnesses - say how many days you think it will take
  • enough time to prepare for court after getting your landlord’s witness statements - give the number of days
  • your landlord’s notes and records about you - this might help you to understand why they’re treating you unfairly
  • any policies your landlord might have that are relevant to the situation, for example their policy on supporting disabled tenants
  • a specialist to give evidence at court for you, for example a doctor to help you prove you’re disabled if your landlord thinks you’re not - this is known as ‘expert evidence’

You should use the directions to tell the court about any dates that you, your expert or your witnesses can’t go to a court hearing.

If you’re not sure you can check the key rules on witness statements, disclosure of documents and expert evidence.

Check which track your case has been put on

The court will put your case on one of 3 routes (called ‘tracks’) based on how much it’s worth and how complicated it is - if it’s less complicated, the process will be less formal. The directions order will tell you which ‘track’ the case has to be placed on.

It’s important to know which track the case has been placed on because this affects what court rules you need to follow and what costs you might have to pay.

The court will decide a track based on rules 26.8 and 55.9(1) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Most housing possession cases are allocated to the fast track.

If your case is allocated to the multi-track

You should get legal advice from a housing specialist or solicitor - this is because the procedural rules are more complex and the costs involved are higher.

The rules about the directions depend on which track your case has been allocated to.

If your case is on the fast-track the court will probably make similar directions to the ‘fast-track standard directions’. The rules are in Practice Direction 28.

If your case is allocated to the multi-track, the court will make directions based on the rules on case management in Civil Procedure Rules Part 29 and Practice Direction 29.

Check the directions

When the court has decided what directions to give it will make a ‘directions order’ and send a copy to you and your landlord.

Check the dates in the directions and make sure you meet any deadlines.

If you’re trying to reach a settlement, you can apply to the court to pause the legal process (the legal word for this is ‘stay’ the proceedings). This would  change the deadlines for your directions and give you extra time to negotiate. Both sides should try to agree to do this.

If you want to do this, fill in form N244 from GOV.UK and send it back to the court as soon as you can.

If your landlord won’t agree to changing the directions you can apply to the court and they’ll decide whether to allow it. Ask for the change using form N244. Get advice if you need help.

You’ll normally need to pay a fee of £255 to make the application. If you’re applying with the agreement of the other side (the legal term for this is ‘by consent’) the fee will be £100. If you’re on a low income you might be able to get help with the fees

Examples of directions

If you’re not sure what to write, you can see an example of directions. [ 78 kb] If you can’t access the document you can see this version, but this doesn’t show the formatting the court uses. If you don’t use the format given in the court rules, your case could be affected negatively. You can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about formatting your document.

This example deals with a claim by someone who says her landlord didn’t take her disability into account when evicting her (discrimination arising from a disability). Her landlord doesn’t agree that she has a disability under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 so the court has said there needs to be a single joint expert.

You should try to get legal advice, if you haven’t already. If you require more detailed advice and guidance, you can get more help

The facts may not suit your specific situation. Do not copy them in case they don’t apply to you.

Prepare a witness statement

You’ll need to provide a written witness statement for every person who will give evidence to the court, including yourself. The directions will tell you when you need to send these.

Writing your witness statement can take a long time so make sure you start it early.  

Before writing, make sure you can explain:

  • what incidents you say were discrimination - there might be more than one
  • what type of discrimination each was - for example, direct or indirect
  • what needs to be proved for each type of discrimination
  • which facts your landlord admits and which they dispute

You should include all of the facts of your case - include everything you put in your defence form and any added detail.

It’s usually best to explain everything in the order it happened. However if you have other defences as well as discrimination you could put those down separately. For example, you might explain why you don’t think your landlord’s notice was valid and then explain how you were harassed.  

You should attach any documents you refer to in the statement. If you don’t have copies, you need to explain why in your statement.  

If you’re referring to documents in your witness statement, give each one a number. The legal name for each document is an ‘exhibit’.

Put your initials on each document. For example, if your name is Karen Church you could mark your first exhibit as ‘ KC1’ and then the next one as ‘KC2’. Use the initials and numbers when you refer to the documents in your witness statement.

Don’t be tempted to exaggerate the facts of your case or your claims - this won’t help your case and the court might not believe you. If you say something that’s not true in your witness statement you could be found in ‘contempt of court’ unless you honestly believed it was true.

Explain any big inconsistencies between your statement and the other side's version of events or your own witnesses. This means that you have an opportunity to put your version forward rather than waiting for the court or other side to highlight the inconsistencies.

Follow the guidance on completing a witness statement on GOV.UK.

Example of a witness statement

If you’re not sure what to write, you can see an example of a witness statement [ 97 kb]. If you can’t access the document you can see this version, but this doesn’t show the formatting the court uses. If you don’t use the format given in the court rules, your case could be affected negatively. You can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re worried about formatting your document.

This example deals with both indirect discrimination and discrimination arising from a disability. It also deals with the public sector equality duty. In this case, the landlord is trying to evict the tenant because he has a rent debt. If you require more detailed advice and guidance, you can get more help.

Don’t just copy this example - the facts may not suit your specific situation.

Get statements from all your witnesses

If someone witnessed the discrimination or has information that supports your case, you should ask them to write a separate statement for you - they should use the same guidance as you. They’ll need to sign the statement too.

Put the witness’ initials on their statements too.

Ask your witness to come to court to give evidence in person - make sure they know the court dates. If they don’t come, the evidence won’t have as much weight attached to it in court - this is called ‘hearsay evidence’.

If you know that your witness can’t attend you can use their statement as evidence but will need to serve a ‘hearsay notice’ when you send your statement saying why they can’t attend. If you don’t do this your evidence will have even less weight attached to it. You can read the full rules in Civil Procedure Rule 33 on GOV.UK.

Check if you need expert medical evidence

If your landlord disagrees with any of the parts of your case about your disability, the court might tell you that your own medical evidence is not enough.

You’ll need to go to an independent medical expert to get a ‘joint expert report’. You might need a joint expert report to:

  • prove you’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010
  • show how your disability affects you
  • explain how a reasonable adjustment would stop you being disadvantaged by your disability
  • show that because of your disability you’re at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people
  • show the impact the discrimination has had on you
  • show that your behaviour that led your landlord trying to evict you was because of your disability
  • suggest other ways your landlord could have dealt with the problem that would discriminate against you less

This is the strongest sort of evidence because it will be written by an independent specialist, but it can cost hundreds of pounds.

You’ll probably need to make an appointment to see the medical expert.

You’ll need to make sure you comply with any directions from the court about the kind of joint expert report they want you to get. The court might order you to:

  • make sure the request for the report asks specific questions or covers specific issues, for example about the impact of your disability
  • agree with your landlord on the wording of the letter to the expert and how you’ll ask any follow-up questions
  • agree who will provide the report
  • agree who will pay the fees, or how they will be shared - they’re usually shared equally unless the court says otherwise.
  • make sure the report is sent to the court by a particular date
  • make sure that the report is sent to your landlord at the same time it is sent to you

Make sure the expert is aware their report will be used as evidence in court. They’ll need to include a statement saying they understand their duty to the court and have complied with the court rules in Civil Procedure Rules Part 35 and Practice Direction 35. You should ask them to put this statement in the report and sign it:

I confirm that I have made clear which facts and matters referred to in this report are within my own knowledge and which are not. Those that are within my own knowledge I confirm to be true. The opinions I have expressed represent my true and complete professional opinions on the matters to which they refer.

The court might tell you to show specific documents to the other side - this could include evidence that helps your case and evidence that doesn’t. The legal term for this is ‘disclosure’. The court will normally tell you in its directions when you need to disclose them.Show all the evidence you haveYou can read the rules on joint experts in Civil Procedure Rules Part 35 and Practice Direction 35 on GOV.UK. If the claim is in the small claims track only some of the usual rules on experts apply (this is in Civil Procedure Rules, rule 27.2).

A ‘document’ is any form of recorded information - not just something written on paper. It could be an email, a picture, a text message or a video.

You’ll be expected to search your records and disclose anything relevant to the case to the other side, even if it doesn’t help your case. You also have to tell them if there are relevant documents you used to have, but don’t anymore. Read more about the documents you need to disclose on GOV.UK.

You don’t have to include certain documents. These are called ‘privileged’ and could include things like letters written by your solicitor giving you legal advice on the case. The directions will tell you what to do but you can read more in Civil Procedure Rule 31 on GOV.UK.

The rules about the procedure for disclosure aren’t as strict if you’ve been told your case is on the ‘small claims track’. The directions will tell you what to do. You can read more in Civil Procedure Rule 27  on GOV.UK.

Check the ‘trial bundle’

The other side will put together a ‘bundle’ for the hearing - this is a folder with all the documents relating to the case which will be sent to the court. They should send you a copy of the index page which is a summary of what’s in the bundle and asks you if you agree.

Read through the list of documents carefully and if there is something you want to be included which isn’t in the list you need to tell them. If you can’t agree, you’ll need to ask the court to make a decision about whether it can be included.

Example of a bundle index [ 58 kb]

If you can’t view the example and you’re not sure what to put on your bundle index you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can’t go to the possession hearing

Tell the court as soon as possible. Explain why you can’t go – for example because you have to self-isolate. The court might:

  • arrange for the hearing to happen by phone or video call
  • change the date of the hearing

You can check how to prepare if the court decides to arrange a hearing by phone or video call.

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