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Challenging an eviction

This advice applies to England

You can challenge your landlord’s eviction claim by filling in the defence form. You’ll be sent this with the details of your court hearing.

You need to send it back within 14 days of receiving it.

Even if you don’t send the form back, you should still go to your court hearing. Find out more about going to court for eviction.

If you’re an introductory or demoted council tenant, you must ask for a review if you want the council to change their decision. You have to do this before you go to court.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help at any point during the eviction process. They might be able to help you fill in the defence form or negotiate with your landlord to stay in your home.

Completing the form

Use the defence form to explain why you’re challenging the eviction and why you think you should stay in your home.

You should give as much detail as possible - the court will look at your form to decide whether you can stay in your home.

It’s best to get advice before you fill in the form - you might be able to get free or affordable legal help. They can tell you if you have a good defence or help you build your case.

You can also get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

You’ll usually need to:

  • give reasons for your problems
  • explain how you’re making the situation better
  • check the papers you get from the court
  • explain why you should be allowed more time in your home
  • respond to every claim your landlord makes against you

Give the reasons for your problems

You should explain your side of the story if your landlord has to prove the reasons to evict you.

For example if you’re being evicted for rent arrears, you should mention why you found it hard to pay your rent - this could be because you lost your job or were in hospital.

Gather any evidence you have to support your case. For example, a doctor’s note if you couldn’t pay your rent because you were ill.

Explain how you're making the situation better

The court might look at what you’ve been doing to make the situation better - it depends on the reason your landlord is using to evict you.

If you can prove you’re trying to fix the situation, the court might delay making a decision on whether you should be evicted.

Make sure to mention if you:

  • are paying off your rent arrears each week or you’ve paid for repairs to any damage you caused
  • have applied for any benefits or a new job if you’re in rent arrears
  • might be able to pay your rent soon - for example because you’re expecting your first Universal Credit payment

If you told your landlord your home was damp or needed repairs and they didn’t fix the problem, you might be able to make a disrepair or damages claim against them.

This could be used to lower the amount of rent arrears you owe.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help in these cases.

Note any errors in letters you’ve been sent

Your court papers will explain why your landlord is trying to evict you. They’ll usually include any evidence your landlord wants the court to look at, , but your landlord might send more before the hearing. Read all the court papers carefully and check they’re correct.

If they’re wrong, explain why in the defence form. For example, mention if the amount of rent arrears is wrong, or explain your side of the story if you’ve been accused of anti-social behaviour.

You should also mention if your landlord made any mistakes in their notice. For example, if they've used the wrong form.

Again, include any evidence that supports what you’re saying if you can.

Explain why you should be allowed more time in your home

Explain why you think you should have more time in your home and give as much detail as you can.

You might need to explain to the court why you should be allowed extra time - for example because you've got a serious illness, a disability or young children.

The court could delay the date you'll need to leave your home. The amount of extra time the court can give you depends on why your landlord is trying to evict you.

Depending on why your landlord is evicting you, the court could either:

  • let you stay in your home if you follow their orders - for example if you agree to pay off your arrears

  • delay the date you'll need to leave by up to 6 weeks, if leaving in the usual 14 days would cause you ‘exceptional hardship’

Send the defence form

You must send the form back to the court and your landlord within 14 days - the address will be on the form.

If you miss the deadline, you should still send the form back as soon as possible.

Make sure you keep a copy of your form - you'll need to remember what you've written later on.

After you've sent your defence form

You’ll have to go to the court for a ‘possession hearing’. You’ll have received a court date with your court papers and the defence form.

Find out more about preparing for your court hearing.

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