What happens in court at an eviction hearing?
This page contains information about what happens during a hearing and what you can expect if you have to go to the sheriff court.
What should I do when I arrive at the courtroom?
When you get into the courtroom, you should let the court officer know you are there. Take a seat and wait for the sheriff clerk to call your name.
When the sheriff comes in to the courtroom, someone will say, 'Court rise', at which point you should stand up until the sheriff is sitting in their seat.
What happens after my name is called?
When your name is called, you should go to the front of the court. The sheriff clerk will tell you where to stand - usually in front of the sheriff.
The person representing your landlord will be asked to speak first. Landlords are often represented by solicitors. They will tell the sheriff why they have brought you to court and what decision they would like the sheriff to make.
For example, if you have rent arrears and your landlord wants to evict you, the landlord's representative might say:
'The pursuer requests decree. The rent account is in arrears of £1,200. The current rent charge is £210 per calendar month. The last payment was made last April and no further payments have been made since then despite several letters having been sent by the landlord.'
Our jargonbuster can help you follow the proceedings.
When will I or my representative get a chance to speak?
You should not interrupt anyone who is speaking. You will be given your chance to give your side of the story. When the landlord's representative is finished, you, or your representative, will be asked to speak.
If you accept that what the landlord's representative is saying is true, you can state how you will remedy the problems. For example:
- if you have rent arrears, you can state how you intend to clear them
- if you have rent arrears caused by housing benefit delays, you can state what you have done and will do to chase them up
- if someone in your house has behaved in an antisocial way, you can state what steps you have made to ensure it won't happen again.
If you do not agree with what the landlord's representative is saying, this is your chance to say why you disagree. It is important to be clear about the reasons why you don't think you should be evicted. It's a good idea to prepare notes of the things you want to say at the hearing.
The sheriff may ask you questions. They will want to make sure that they have the full picture before they make their decision.
There are some situations where the sheriff has to make an order for eviction. Read the pages on grounds for eviction for your tenancy type to find out what these are. If the sheriff has to make an order, you can ask to have the eviction delayed to give you time to find somewhere else to live.
How will I know what the sheriff decides?
The sheriff will tell you what their decision is. If you do not understand what is being said, you can contact the sheriff clerk's office afterwards.
What decisions can the sheriff make?
The sheriff can do any of the things described here.
Continue the case
The sheriff may decide not to make a final decision at the hearing but to arrange another hearing at a future date. This is usually to allow time for:
- you to make a payment or for a cheque to clear if you have rent arrears
- a housing benefit claim to be processed
- you to get more evidence to support your side of the case.
The sheriff clerk will give you the date of the next hearing there and then.
Dismiss the case
If the sheriff dismisses the case it means that they have decided there is no case to hear. This could be because:
- your landlord has requested the case be dismissed
- the sheriff has decided that your landlord has not followed the proper procedures to bring you to court
- if your case was regarding rent arrears, the arrears have been cleared.
Sist the case
If the sheriff sists the case, they are suspending it for now, but it can be called back to court at a later date.
For example, a case could be sisted to allow you time to:
- demonstrate that you can stick to a repayment arrangement if you have rent arrears
- develop a record of good behaviour if you have been brought to court because of antisocial behaviour.
If you fail to keep to the arrangement you have made, your landlord can bring your case back to court.
If the sheriff grants decree it means that they have made a decision granting the order your landlord has requested. This could be for:
- an eviction order, ending your legal right to live in the landlord's property
- an order for you to repay any money owing
- an order for you to pay your landlord's legal costs.
If you do not understand, you can contact the sheriff clerk's office afterwards.
What happens once the sheriff has made his decision?
If the sheriff has dismissed the case then that is the end of this case. If it was dismissed because the landlord did not follow procedures properly but the grounds of the case (for example rent arrears or antisocial behaviour) remain, your landlord could start legal action again from the beginning and bring you back to court.
If the case has been continued to give you time to do something (for example, to show you can stick to a payment plan to pay off your rent arrears), make sure you do it. Make sure you know when the next hearing is and keep in touch with your representative if you have one.
If your case is sisted, make sure you stick to any arrangements you have made with your landlord or the court. If you do not stick to an arrangement, your landlord can ask for the case to be brought back to court.
If the decree granted was for your eviction, your landlord can now legally evict you, normally 14 days after decree has been granted. In some situations they may choose not to enforce this, for example if you can clear the rent account. Check with your landlord if there is any way this can be done.
If there is no way of preventing the eviction, you should try to find alternative accommodation. If you cannot find alternative accommodation you should make a homeless application to the council. If you are having difficulty finding accommodation, get advice from Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or Citizens Advice near you. Use the Advice Services Directory to find help in your area.
If you do not move out, you will receive a letter telling you that the sheriff officers will eject you.
If the decree was granted for you to pay money that you owe, or your landlord's expenses, you will be told how much you owe and how you can pay. If you are going to have difficulty making payments, you must seek advice. An adviser may be able to help you negotiate repayments that you can afford.
What if I disagree with the sheriff's decision?
You can only appeal against the sheriff's decision if they did not follow the proper court procedures or if that they did not use the law properly to make their decision.
This kind of appeal is quite difficult so you should always seek specialist legal advice. There are strict time limits for lodging appeals so get advice straight away if you want to appeal. Use the Advice Services Directory to find an advice agency near you.
Will I have to pay court costs?
If an order for your eviction is made, or if you leave the property after your landlord starts the court case but before the order is made, you may be ordered to pay your landlord's legal costs.Talk to an adviser if you are in this situation. Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or use the Advice Services Directory to find agencies in your area.