A secure council tenant can only be evicted for certain legal reasons, known as grounds.
Get advice if you are facing eviction
Get help now if you're facing eviction.
Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 for free advice. 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.
How secure council tenants are evicted
The law sets out reasons why secure council tenants can be evicted. These are called grounds for possession.
You can be evicted for the same reasons if you have a flexible council tenancy.
The court must be convinced that there is at least one ground to evict you.
The grounds are split into two main types. These are discretionary grounds and mandatory grounds.
For most mandatory grounds and some discretionary grounds, you cannot be evicted unless the council offers you a suitable alternative home.
Discretionary grounds for eviction
If the council wants to evict you for discretionary grounds, the court must agree both that:
- the ground to evict you is proved
- it is reasonable to evict you in the circumstances
The court uses its discretion to decide if you should be evicted.
The most common discretionary ground used by councils is not paying the rent.
The council could take you to court because you:
- owe a lot of rent
- regularly let your rent arrears build up
- don't pay the water or heating charges that are included in your rent
The council must follow the steps set out in the rent arrears protocol before taking you to court because of rent arrears.
This means that the council must write to you about your arrears, help you with your housing benefit and offer other support if you need it.
The council must try to reach an agreement with you to repay the arrears, to avoid taking you to court if possible.
You could be evicted for antisocial or violent behaviour. For example if you, your family or people that visit you cause a nuisance in your neighbourhood or use your home for illegal activities such as drug dealing.
You also risk eviction if you:
- are violent towards your spouse or partner and they leave home as a result
- commit an offence during a riot anywhere in the UK
- were involved in antisocial behaviour against the council's staff or contractors
There is also a mandatory ground for antisocial behaviour.
Breaking your tenancy agreement
You should have a written tenancy agreement. This sets out your rights and responsibilities.
Your responsibilities usually include paying the rent on time, letting workmen in to carry out necessary repairs and not keeping certain pets.
The council can take you to court if you break any of the terms of the agreement.
You can be evicted if you lied about your circumstances to get the council to give you a tenancy.
Inheriting the tenancy of a home that's too big for you
You could be evicted if you inherited a council tenancy after the original tenant died and your home is too big for you.
The council can only use this ground for a limited period after it learns of the original tenant's death.
The council cannot use this ground if the original tenant was your husband, wife or civil partner.
If the council wants to evict you for this reason, it must offer you suitable alternative accommodation. The offer has to be based on your needs, not whether you want to move there.
If you have adapted accommodation, this ground can be used to evict you if all of the following apply:
- your home has been specially designed or adapted for a physically disabled person
- no physically disabled person is living in your home
- the council needs your home for a person who is physically disabled
Smaller adaptions such as the installation of a ground floor toilet are not a reason to evict you under this ground.
The council must offer you suitable alternative accommodation if it wants to evict you for this reason. The offer has to be based on your needs, not whether you want to move there.
Mandatory grounds for eviction
The court must make a possession order if the council proves a mandatory ground for eviction applies to you and that it has offered you a suitable alternative home which you have refused to accept. The accommodation must be available for you to move into.
The council doesn't have to offer you anywhere else to live if evicting you because of antisocial behaviour.
The most common mandatory grounds are antisocial behaviour, demolition or major repair work to your home and deliberate overcrowding.
If you or a member of your household (even a visitor in some cases) has already been convicted of antisocial behaviour in the courts.
This ground could be used, for example, if you have been convicted of a:
- serious offence
- breach of a criminal behaviour order
- breach of a court order in relation to serious noise nuisance
Before it goes to court the council must tell you in writing that you have the right to request a review of its decision to evict you using this ground.
There are also discretionary grounds for antisocial behaviour.
Demolition or major works
The council may decide to evict you because it plans to demolish or reconstruct your home.
The council can also decide to evict you because it needs to carry out major repairs that can't be done while you live there and you won't agree to be temporarily rehoused.
You could be entitled to a home loss payment if you are evicted for one of these reasons.
You can be evicted if you have made your home overcrowded deliberately, for example because you have taken in lodgers.
This won't apply if you have a large family and your home is overcrowded.