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:

Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 to see if you qualify

You can get advice from Shelter regardless of your income:

Call our emergency helpline for initial telephone advice

Look for a Shelter service in your area

Have your notice and court paperwork with you when you speak to an adviser.

The eviction process

If the council wants to evict you from a secure council tenancy, it must take these steps:

1. Send you a document giving you notice to leave

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

  • sets out the reasons (grounds) it wants to evict you
  • tells you when the notice period ends (normally four weeks after you were given the notice)

You do not have to leave when the notice period expires.

2. Start court proceedings

The council can only start court proceedings after the notice period has expired.

The council applies to the court to ask for a possession order. The council can apply any time in the 12 months after the notice period expires. (The council may be able to apply straight after giving you the notice if it wants to evict you because of antisocial behaviour.)

The court then sends you a:

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

3. Ask the court for a possession order

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

The court can:

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

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

It's always worth negotiating with the council. You may be able to reach a realistic agreement with the council. Starting court proceedings should be a last resort.

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

The hearing is your opportunity to put forward your case. There is more chance of you keeping your home if you go.

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

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.

You may be able to get legal help free of charge from an adviser at the court.

Contact your local court for details of the housing possession court duty scheme.

Find out what happens at an eviction court hearing.

Challenge eviction by bailiffs

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

Reasons you can be evicted from a secure tenancy

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

To evict you, the court must agree that at least one ground for possession applies. There are two main types: discretionary grounds and mandatory grounds.

Discretionary grounds

Most court proceedings against council tenants are made on discretionary grounds.

Common examples of discretionary grounds are:

  • rent arrears
  • breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement

The court decides if it's been proved the ground for possession applies and if is it reasonable for you to lose your home.

Mandatory grounds

The court must order your eviction if the council proves that a mandatory ground for possession applies to you. These aren’t used very often.

Examples of mandatory grounds for eviction are:

  • demolition or major redevelopment that can't be done if you stay
  • deliberate overcrowding

In these cases the council must show the court that a suitable alternative home is on offer if you are evicted. This must be a secure council tenancy or a housing association assured tenancy.

Antisocial behaviour

The council can use either a discretionary or a mandatory ground to evict you for antisocial behaviour.

Eviction rules for flexible council tenancies

You may have a fixed-term tenancy known as a flexible tenancy if your tenancy began after March 2012. These tenancies usually last for at least five years.

The council has to follow rules to evict you when a flexible tenancy ends if it does not want to renew your tenancy.

The council can also evict you using the same procedure and for the same reasons as for secure council tenancies.

Last updated 21 Apr 2017 | © Shelter

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