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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Decisions that the court can make

There are a few different things that can happen if you have to go to court for a possession hearing. 

Possession order

A possession order ends your right to live in your home and gives possession back to your landlord or your mortgage lender.

Outright possession order

An outright possession order means you have to leave the property by the date given in the order.  If you haven’t left by then your landlord or mortgage lender can apply to the Enforcement of Judgments office to evict you.  You may end up having to pay for the costs of this.

Suspended possession order

A suspended possession order can be granted if the court believes that you could stay in your home as long as you stick to certain conditions.  These conditions will be explained in the court order.  You could be asked to pay a certain amount each month to pay off what you owe, or to prevent certain visitors coming to your home again if they’ve caused anti social behaviour in the past.

If you don’t stick to these conditions your landlord can ask the court to lift the suspended possession order and grant an outright possession order.

Possession order with a stay

The judge can grant a possession order but “stay” this for a period of time.  This means that the order won’t take effect until this time period ends.  A judge might do this if it would be unreasonable to expect you to leave the property immediately, say because you are ill or pregnant.

Adjourning a case

The judge can adjourn the case if he or she thinks that it is too early to make a decision and the hearing should be delayed.  Your case could be adjourned

  • to allow you time to get advice
  • to give you time to sort out any benefit or payment problems
  • because the judge has asked for specific information which isn’t available at the initial hearing.

The judge will usually set a date for a new hearing.  You can stay in your home during the adjournment.  The judge might set up conditions for the adjournment, like you have to pay a certain amount towards your arrears or make sure you don’t cause any nuisance to neighbours.

Adjourning generally

If a case is adjourned generally, it means that it still exists in the court records but isn’t active anymore.  This will usually happen if a problem has been sorted out or mostly resolved by the time of the hearing.  If the problem occurs again the case can be brought back to court.

Dismissing the case

It is rare for a case to be dismissed. If a case is dismissed it is the end of the legal process for this issue.  If the problem arises again, your landlord or lender will have to start the entire legal process from the beginning again.  

Time order

If you have a secured loan or second mortgage which is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you may be able to ask the Master to grant a Time Order.

A Time Order can reschedule and reduce payment of the whole balance owed under a loan agreement.  The Master can order that the interest charged is reduced or frozen.  The Court can only grant this kind of Order if it believes it is just to do so.  You will need to speak to a specialist adviser, such as those who work for Housing Rights Service, if you want more information on this option.