Why preparation is vital for possession hearings
Once a possession notice has begun, and standard court proceedings have started, the next stage is to prepare for the possession hearing. This is also relevant where the court has reviewed a claim under accelerated court proceedings and scheduled a hearing to ask questions about the claim.
The hearing preparation is a vital stage in supporting the claim and pursuing a possession order. A well-prepared case may resolve any defence and avoid potential delays and additional costs. Meanwhile, a poorly prepared case may cause potential delays, result in additional costs and in the worst-case scenario could lead to the dismissal of the claim.
Every case is different and will individually require careful consideration to prepare for the hearing, but we typically advise the following steps to prepare for the hearing.
Instructing an advocate:
Although we advise the landlord or their agent attends the hearing to answer tenancy related questions, an advocate is a legal professional who can attend the hearing alongside them to answer any legal related questions.
The advocate is instructed to put forward the legal case to the court to try to persuade the judge to award a possession order. Additionally, as it is not uncommon for tenants to raise a defence at the hearing itself, the advocate can put forward legal points to try to resolve the defence within the hearing’s timescale. If successful, the judge may be persuaded to award a possession hearing.
Finally, although a possession hearing is quite informal compared to other types of hearings, the advocate can provide reassurance to the landlord or agent attending the hearing and will carry out most of the talking during the hearing.
If the landlord has sought legal representation to help pursue a possession order, it will typically book an advocate to attend the hearing and send relevant paperwork to the advocate on the landlord’s behalf.
Preparing a witness statement:
A witness statement is an additional document sent to the tenant and court prior to the hearing, which supplements the court papers filed to commence court proceedings. It allows the witness to provide an explanation of the claim in a first-person perspective and it can be very persuasive during the hearing. As the landlord or their managing agent will have knowledge about the tenancy – we typically advise the witness statement to be drafted in the landlord’s or their agent’s name (i.e. the witness).
Importantly, as most possession hearings typically last five to 10 minutes, the witness statement must be drafted as concisely as possible and only include key points relating to the claim. Unfortunately, many landlords acting on their own (without legal representation) believe that it is important to provide as much information to the court and tenant prior to the hearing and this creates the risk that the court may decide that there is too much information to deal with everything within the allocated time, and re-schedule the hearing for a future date.
Therefore, it is recommended to instruct legal representation to advise on and prepare the witness statement on the landlord’s or agent’s behalf. The legal representation will have a good understanding on the key points of the claim to be included in the witness statement and can send the statement to the landlord or agent to review and sign (following approval of the witness statement).
Hearing preparation is a vital stage in pursuing a possession order and careful consideration is needed for each individual case.
To avoid potential delays and additional costs, we typically advise landlords to instruct legal representation who have experience preparing for hearings and can provide tailored advice relating to the matter at hand.
Woodstock Legal Services has an experienced team who support The Lettings Hub prepare for hearings on behalf of customers with appropriate rent and legal protections in place. For more information speak to our team today on 0345 241 0768.