Eviction of council and housing association tenants

No evictions by bailiffs will take place between 17 November and 11 January except in very limited circumstances.

Evictions can go ahead where the court has made an order because:

  • there was antisocial behaviour
  • you owed more than 9 months' rent before 23 March 2020

The courts will continue to process cases during lockdown. You still need to read any letters from the court and attend the hearing if there is one.

When you can be evicted

Most council or housing association tenants have secure or assured tenancies.

You can only be evicted if your landlord can prove a legal reason to evict you.

You can be evicted more easily if you have a:

Legal reasons for eviction

A legal reason for eviction is called a 'ground for possession'.

The most common reasons for eviction are:

You might face eviction if you inherit a council or housing association tenancy.

Find out more about:

The eviction process

The legal process is sometimes called 'possession proceedings'.

The 4 stages to the process are:

  1. You get a notice
  2. The council or housing association start court action
  3. A judge decides what happens at a review or hearing
  4. Bailiffs can evict you if the court has ordered this

You won't always be evicted. The process takes time and there are things you can do at each stage to try and keep your home.

1. Notice from your landlord

Your council or housing association send you a 'notice seeking possession'.

It sets out the earliest date court action can start.

How much notice you get can depend on:

  • the reasons for eviction
  • when you received the notice
  • whether you rent from a housing association or a council

The rules have been changed temporarily during the coronavirus outbreak.

On or after 29 August 2020

From this date most tenants are entitled to 6 months' notice but there are exceptions.

You're only entitled to 4 weeks' notice if you have more than 6 months' rent arrears.

In some antisocial behaviour cases, your council or landlord could give you notice and apply to court immediately.

If you deliberately gave wrong information to get your tenancy, you can be given:

  • 4 weeks' notice from the council
  • 2 weeks' notice from a housing association

Between 26 March and 28 August 2020

All council and housing association tenants were entitled to 3 months' notice between these dates.

Before 26 March 2020

Notice periods were shorter before the coronavirus outbreak.

There were different rules for council and housing association tenants.

Most council tenants were entitled to 4 weeks' notice.

Most housing association tenants were entitled to:

  • 2 weeks for rent arrears or breaking terms of the tenancy
  • 4 weeks if the landlord used a mandatory ground for antisocial behaviour
  • 2 months for a no fault reason, for example, demolition or redevelopment

How long the notice is valid for

The notice remains valid for 12 months so your landlord may still be able to apply to court even though the process has been on hold for several months.

What to do: contact your council or housing association

Try to come to an agreement to stop things going any further.

Councils and housing associations should only use eviction as a last resort.

They should delay court action if they know you're trying to sort things out, especially if you're facing unemployment or other difficulties because of coronavirus.

You may be able to sort out a repayment plan for rent arrears or agree to mediation if there have been complaints of antisocial behaviour.

2. Court action starts

Your housing association or council can normally start court action once the date in your notice has passed.

The eviction process has been paused due to coronavirus but the courts start to deal with evictions again from 21 September.

You will receive the following documents from the court:

  • N5 claim form - completed by your landlord
  • N11R defence form - for you to return within 2 weeks

Your housing association or council must send you a reactivation notice if they apply to court to restart a case that was on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The courts are prioritising cases such as antisocial behaviour or very high rent arrears to be dealt with sooner than others.

What to do: read the court paperwork carefully 

Contact your landlord if you disagree with any of the information.

Get legal help to complete and return the defence form.

If you can't complete the form or get help with it, court guidance says you could send a short statement to the court instead.

You can explain your situation and why a possession order should not be made. For example, if you can pay your rent and repay your arrears in instalments.

3. The review date and the hearing

New procedures introduced because of coronavirus mean that a judge will review your case, usually 4 weeks before making a final decision at a possession hearing.

You will get a 'notice of review' from the court at least 3 weeks before the review date.

You don't need to attend court on the review date.

You can get free legal advice from a court duty adviser on the day of the review. The notice of review will tell you how to do this.

At the review, a judge could:

  • set a date for a hearing - usually 4 weeks after the review
  • dismiss the claim - if there's been a procedural mistake by your landlord
  • give directions - to give you or your landlord more time to do something

You will get a 'notice of possession hearing' with the date of the hearing.

You should always attend or let the court know if there's a very good reason why you can't. For example, sudden and serious ill health.

The court decision

At the hearing, a judge could make a:

  • suspended possession order - this sets conditions for you to keep to so you don't have to leave your home
  • outright possession order - this sets a date for you to leave your home

The ground for possession can affect whether you get a suspended or outright order.

Find out more about what the court can decide if you're facing eviction for:

What to do: always go to the hearing

You can attend even if you didn't return your defence form.

A court duty adviser can give you free legal help on the review date and at the hearing if you're facing eviction for rent arrears.

You should still get legal advice before the review date and the hearing if you can.

4. Eviction by bailiffs

The council or housing association can ask bailiffs to evict you if you:

  • break the conditions in a suspended order
  • stay in your home past the date in an outright order

They must apply for an eviction warrant.

The bailiffs give you at least 2 weeks' notice of the eviction date.

What to do: check if the court to stop the bailiffs   

You must act fast. Get legal advice.

The court can only stop the eviction if the council or housing association has used a discretionary ground.

The court can't stop the eviction if an outright possession order was made on a mandatory antisocial behaviour ground or on Ground 8 for housing association tenants.

Find out how to suspend an eviction warrant if you have rent arrears.


Last updated 18 November 2020 | © Shelter

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