Eviction of council and housing association tenants

Coronavirus update:

You're now entitled to 3 months’ notice. This won’t apply if you got your notice before 26 March 2020.

But all court action for eviction has been suspended until the end of June, so your landlord can't take things further at the moment.

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 can sometimes be evicted if you inherit a council or housing association tenancy. If you are a council tenant you must be offered another suitable tenancy.

Find out more about inheriting a council tenancy or inheriting a housing association tenancy.

The eviction process

The 4 stages to the process are:

  1. You get a notice
  2. The council or housing association start court action - also called 'possession proceedings'
  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. Get legal advice

1. Notice

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

It's a special form which sets out:

  • the reasons they want to evict you
  • when they can start court action

How much notice do you get from the council?

You usually get at least 4 weeks' notice.

The council could apply to court immediately in some cases of antisocial behaviour.

How much notice do you get from your housing association?

You get at least 2 weeks' notice.

The housing association could apply to court immediately in some cases of antisocial behaviour.

You get at least 2 months' notice if your housing association wants the property back for a reason that is not your fault. For example, demolition or redevelopment of the property.

What to do: contact your council or housing association

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

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 start as soon as the date in your notice has passed.

Your landlord may delay applying to court if they know you're trying to sort things out.

If they don't start court action within 12 months, the notice is no longer valid. They'll have to start the process again with a new notice if they want to evict you.

When they apply to court, you get the following paperwork:

  • claim form - with a hearing date and time
  • particulars of claim - full details of why they are 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

The time and date of the hearing is on the claim form.

It will usually be 3 to 8 weeks after you get the court paperwork.

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 type of 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 anti-social 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 terms of a suspended possession order
  • stay past the date in an outright order

They must apply for an eviction warrant.

You get a notice of eviction from the bailiffs that tells you when they are due to come.

What to do: ask the court to stop the bailiffs   

You must act fast.

Complete Form N244 on GOV.UK or fill in a paper form at the court. There are guidance notes available.

Get legal advice if you need help with the form.

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


Last updated 26 Mar 2020 | © Shelter

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