Eviction of council tenants

Get advice if you are a council tenant threatened with eviction. You may be able to prevent eviction or defend the case if it goes to court.

Where to get advice

You lose a lifetime tenancy if you are evicted from a secure council tenancy. Most council tenants have this tenancy type.

Get advice as soon as you can if you're facing eviction.

You may qualify for legal aid (free advice or representation) if you're on a low income. If you don't qualify, there may be other options for free legal support

The eviction process

The council must take these steps if it wants to evict you from a secure tenancy:

1. Send you a notice seeking possession

The council must give you notice to leave on a special form that:

  • sets out the reasons (grounds) they want to evict you
  • tells you when they can start court action 

You usually get at least 4 weeks' notice of court action but the council can apply to court immediately in some cases of nuisance or antisocial behaviour.

2. Start court proceedings

The council can start court proceedings after the date in the notice has passed.

The court then sends you a:

  • claim form that tells you the reasons the council wants to evict you
  • defence form for you to complete and return to the court within 14 days
  • the time and date of the court hearing

The council must start court action within 12 months of the date in the notice. After this, the notice is no longer valid. 

3. Attend the court hearing

The council will go to the court hearing and ask the court to grant a possession order.

Depending on the situation, the court can:

  • dismiss the case
  • adjourn the hearing to a later date
  • make an outright possession order - that sets a date for you to leave
  • make a suspended possession order - that allows you to stay so long as you keep to the conditions set

4. Apply to the court for bailiffs to evict you

The council can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you if:

  • the court makes an outright possession order but you stay beyond the date the court ordered you to leave
  • you break the terms of a suspended order

How to challenge eviction

Talk to your landlord

Negotiate with the council. You may be able to reach a realistic agreement with them. They should only start court proceedings as a last resort.

Explain how you'll pay off any rent arrears. Be clear with the council about how much you can afford to pay towards arrears each week

Reply to the court

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.

Attend the court hearing

Go to the possession hearing to give yourself the best chance of keeping your home. You'll have the opportunity to put forward your case at the hearing

You can attend the hearing even if you didn't send a defence form to the court.

Get there at least 30 minutes early. Ask if there's a court duty scheme. A housing adviser may be able to speak to the judge for you free of charge if you don't already have a legal representative.  

The court decides if you:

  • have to leave by a certain date
  • can stay so long as you keep to certain conditions
  • should return to the court on another date for a final decision

The court could also dismiss the council’s claim against you.

Challenge eviction by bailiffs

You can sometimes take court action to challenge eviction by bailiffs.

Reasons you can be evicted 

The law sets out reasons why you can be evicted from a secure council tenancy. These are called grounds for possession.

The grounds the council is using must be set out and explained in your notice.

The council must prove a ground for possession in court to get a possession order. 

There are two main types: discretionary grounds and mandatory grounds.

Discretionary grounds

Most court proceedings against council tenants are on discretionary grounds.

Common examples of discretionary grounds are:

  • rent arrears
  • nuisance or antisocial behaviour

The court decides if it's reasonable to make a possession order if the council can prove the ground.

The court can also suspend a possession order made on a discretionary ground.

Mandatory ground for serious antisocial behaviour

The council can use a mandatory ground if you've been convicted of a serious offence or breached an injunction for antisocial behaviour 

The court must order your eviction if the ground is proved in court. 

Other mandatory grounds

Sometimes councils will use a mandatory ground if they want to: 

  • demolish the property or do major works
  • sell the property to allow redevelopment

The council must show the court that they will offer you another secure council tenancy or a housing association assured tenancy when you have to leave.  

Eviction rules for flexible council tenancies

Flexible tenancies are a type of fixed term secure tenancy. They usually last for at least 5 years.

Find out if you can be evicted from a flexible tenancy:

  • during the fixed term
  • when the fixed term ends

Last updated 26 Sep 2019 | © Shelter

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