Most council tenants have a secure tenancy. You can only be evicted after the council gets a court order and asks the court to send bailiffs.
You lose a life-long tenancy if you are evicted from a secure council tenancy.
You can go to court to defend possession proceedings or to stop the bailiffs. A court can stop the eviction. Get advice from a housing adviser now.
Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
Anyone can call Shelter's free national helpline on 0808 800 4444 .
For face to face help, use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser at a Shelter advice service, Citizen's Advice or law centre.
Have the papers you received from the court with you when you speak to an adviser.
Reasons for eviction
The law sets out reasons why council tenants can be evicted. These are called grounds for possession.
To evict you, the court must agree that there is at least one ground for possession.
Reasons for eviction are split into two main types. These are discretionary grounds and mandatory grounds.
Most evictions are made on discretionary grounds. The court looks at:
- if the ground for possession has been proved
- is it reasonable for you to lose your home
Rent arrears is an example of a discretionary ground.
Where the council proves that a mandatory ground for possession applies to you the court must order your eviction.
With some grounds you cannot be evicted unless the council has offered you a suitable alternative home.
How the council can evict you
To evict you from a secure tenancy, the council must:
- send you a document giving you notice to leave
- apply to the court for a possession order
- ask bailiffs to evict you
The council must take all of these steps before you can be evicted.
1. The council gives you notice
If the council gives you notice to leave, it must be on a special form that sets out the reasons why it wants to evict you.
The form must tell you when the notice period ends.
The notice period is normally four weeks after you were given the notice.
When the council wants to evict you because of serious antisocial behaviour and is using a discretionary ground, it can apply to the court straight after giving you the notice.
You do not have to leave when the notice period expires.
2. The council applies to the court
After the notice period has expired the council must apply to the court for a possession order if it wants to evict you. It can do this any time in the 12 months after the notice period expires.
The court sends you a claim form that tells you the time and date of the court hearing. The form explains the reasons why the council wants you to be evicted.
The court also sends you a defence form. You should complete and return this to the court within 14 days.
You can provide information to the court to help it decide if a possession order should be made. You can send information to the court on your defence form, go to a hearing or both.
It is important that you attend the court hearing. The hearing is your opportunity to put forward your case. There is more risk of you losing your home if you don't go.
3. The council asks bailiffs to evict you
The council can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you. It does this if the court makes an outright possession order that orders you to leave by a certain date but you stay beyond that date.
If the court makes a suspended possession order, you can stay in your home so long as you keep to any conditions imposed by the order.
But if you break the terms of the suspended order, the council can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you.
Different rules for flexible council tenancies
Most council tenants have a secure tenancy.
But if your tenancy began after March 2012 you may have a fixed-term tenancy known as a flexible tenancy. These tenancies usually last for at least five years.
If you break your flexible tenancy agreement, you can be evicted using the same procedure and for the same reasons as for secure council tenancies.
If the council does not want to renew your tenancy when the fixed term ends, separate rules apply for evicting you when a flexible tenancy ends.
Different rules for other council tenancies
Different rules for eviction apply if you are:
- an introductory council tenant
- demoted council tenant
- staying in temporary accommodation after a council accepts you as homeless
Ask your housing office if you are not sure what type of tenancy you have or ask a housing adviser to look at your tenancy agreement.
Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.