Most council tenants have a secure tenancy and can only be evicted if the council can prove to a court that certain legal reasons apply.
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:
You can get advice from Shelter regardless of your income:
Have your notice and court paperwork with you when you speak to an adviser.
Reasons for eviction from a council tenancy
The law sets out reasons why you can be evicted if you have a secure council tenancy (most council tenants have this tenancy type).
These reasons are called grounds for possession. They are split into two main types:
- discretionary grounds - the court must decide if it's reasonable for you to be evicted
- mandatory grounds - the court must order you to leave if the council proves the ground applies
If you have a flexible council tenancy, you can be evicted for the same reasons as a secure council tenant. The council can also use different rules for eviction if it doesn't want to renew your tenancy at the end of its fixed term.
Discretionary grounds for possession
If the council wants to evict you for discretionary grounds, the court must agree both that:
- the council can prove the ground applies
- it is reasonable to make a possession order
The court uses its discretion to decide if you should be evicted or if a possession order should be suspended on terms (for example that you repay rent arrears regularly).
If you break the terms of a suspended possession order, you risk being evicted by bailiffs.
Not paying the rent is the most common reason councils use for eviction. It is a discretionary ground.
The council could take you to court because you:
- owe a lot of rent
- regularly let your rent arrears build up
- don't pay water or other charges that are included in your rent
The council must follow the steps in the rent arrears protocol. This means that the council must:
- try to reach an agreement with you to repay the arrears
- write to you about your arrears
- help you with your housing benefit or universal credit
- offer other support if you need it
The council should only take you to court as a last resort.
You could be evicted for antisocial or violent behaviour, for example if:
- you, your family or people that visit you cause a nuisance in your neighbourhood
- you use your home for illegal activities such as drug dealing
You also risk eviction if you:
- are violent towards your spouse or partner and they leave home as a result
- commit an offence during a riot anywhere in the UK
- were involved in antisocial behaviour against the council's staff or contractors
There is also a mandatory ground for antisocial behaviour.
Breaking your tenancy agreement
The council can take you to court if you break any of the terms of your tenancy agreement by, for example:
- not paying the rent on time
- not letting workmen in to carry out necessary repairs
- keeping certain pets
You should have a written tenancy agreement. This sets out your rights and responsibilities.
You can be evicted if you lied about your situation to get the council to give you a tenancy.
Inheriting the tenancy of a home that's too big for you
You could be evicted if you inherited a council tenancy after the original tenant died and the home is too big for you.
The council can only use this ground during a limited period after it learns of the original tenant's death.
The council can't use this ground if the original tenant was your husband, wife or civil partner.
The council must offer you suitable alternative accommodation if they want to evict you for this reason. Their offer must be based on your needs, not whether you want to move there.
The council can use this ground to evict you if you live in adapted accommodation and all of the following apply:
- your home has been specially designed or adapted for a physically disabled person
- no one living in your home has a physical disability
- the council needs your home for someone who is physically disabled
The council shouldn't use this ground if your home only has smaller adaptions such as the installation of a ground floor toilet.
The council must offer you suitable alternative accommodation if it wants to evict you for this reason.
Mandatory grounds for possession
The court must make a possession order if the council proves a mandatory ground for eviction applies to you.
In most cases, the council must offer you another council or housing association that is available for you to move into.
The council doesn't have to offer you anywhere else to live if you are being evicted because of antisocial behaviour.
The 3 most common mandatory grounds are listed here:
If you or a member of your household (even a visitor in some cases) has already been convicted of antisocial behaviour in the courts.
This ground could be used, for example, if you have been convicted of a:
- serious offence
- breach of a criminal behaviour order
- breach of a court order in relation to serious noise nuisance
Before taking you to court, the council must tell you in writing that you have the right to ask for a review of the decision to evict you.
There are also discretionary grounds for antisocial behaviour.
Demolition or major works
The council may decide to evict you because it:
- plans to demolish or reconstruct your home
- needs to carry out major repairs that can't be done while you live there and you won't agree to temporary rehousing
You could be entitled to a home loss payment if you are evicted for one of these reasons.
You can be evicted if you have made your home overcrowded deliberately, for example because you have taken in lodgers.
This won't apply if you have a large family and your home is overcrowded.
Last updated 31 Jan 2019 | © Shelter
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