Eviction of council and housing association tenants

Coronavirus update:

On 21st September courts start to deal with evictions again.

There is a backlog of cases and the eviction process takes time.

Sort out any problems with rent arrears if you can.

Get legal advice on your situation.

When you can be evicted

You can usually only be evicted from a council or housing association home if your landlord can prove a legal reason to evict you.

You can be evicted more easily if you are 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 next at a court 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

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. 

Notice given on or after 29 August 2020

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

There are exceptions to this general rule if you're facing eviction because of:

  • rent arrears of 6 months or more
  • violent or antisocial behaviour  
  • fraud or false statement to get your tenancy

The council or housing association only have to give 4 weeks' notice if you owe more than 6 months' rent.

In violence and antisocial behaviour cases, the notice period is 4 weeks for councils and either 2 weeks or 4 weeks for housing associations depending which ground is used. In very serious cases, your landlord could give you notice and apply to court immediately.  

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

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

Notice given between 26 March and 28 August 2020 

You should have been given 3 months' notice between these dates.

This applies regardless of which ground is used and who your landlord is.

Notice given 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.

Your landlord may 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. The council or housing association starts court action

Court action can normally start as soon as the date in your notice has passed.

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

When the council or housing association apply to court, you get the following paperwork:

  • claim form - possibly with the hearing date 
  • particulars of claim - full details of why they're taking action
  • defence form - for you to complete and return

What to do: read the court paperwork carefully 

Contact your council or housing association if you disagree with any of the information.

Get legal help to complete and return the defence form within 14 days.

You should still go to the hearing even if you don't return the defence form.

3. The court hearing

You will get at least 3 weeks' notice of the hearing date. It might be on the claim form or the court may write to you separately with the date.

At the hearing, a judge decides what happens next.

Depending on the situation, the judge could:

  • make a suspended possession order - this sets conditions for you to keep to so you don't have to leave your home
  • make an outright possession order - this sets a date for you to leave your home
  • delay the hearing to a later date - to give you or your landlord more time to do something
  • dismiss the case - if it was unreasonable to have brought it in the first place

Suspended or outright possession orders

The ground your landlord uses can affect whether you get a suspended or outright order.

There are different grounds for council tenants and housing association tenants.

The most likely outcome is a suspended possession order if you attend the hearing and can show you will keep to certain conditions, for example paying a weekly amount towards your rent arrears.

You may get an outright possession order if you won't be able to afford the arrears or if your antisocial behaviour is serious.

The court must also make an outright possession order if you are a housing association tenant and your landlord can prove ground 8 for serious rent arrears.

What to do: always go to the hearing

You can usually get legal help at court if you're facing eviction for rent arrears. Arrive 30 minutes early to speak to a duty scheme adviser.

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 if you need it.

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 07 September 2020 | © Shelter

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