Tenant defences against demotion claims

Procedure for filing a defence and several possible arguments for showing that a demotion order would be unreasonable.

This content applies to England

Filing a defence to a demotion claim

The hearing will normally take place four to eight weeks after the issue of the claim. The tenant has 14 days from the service of the claim in which to file a defence.[1] If the tenant does not file a defence, they can still take part in the hearing but the court may take account of their failure to file a defence.

The criteria which must be satisfied for the court to be able to issue a demotion order are outlined on the page Definition and features of demoted tenancies.

Available defences in demotion claims

Possible arguments that it would be unreasonable to make a demotion order could include that:[2]

  • the conduct was not severe enough to merit a demotion order or that the tenant was not involved in (or tried to prevent) the conduct

  • the perpetrator's behaviour has subsequently improved

  • there is an alternative to demotion which would be more appropriate –  eg an injunction to prevent nuisance or annoyance or the adjournment of proceedings

  • the consequences of demotion would be disproportionate to the conduct in question

Disproportionate consequences could include: 

  • potential eviction without further consideration of the circumstances of the case 

  • lack of right to review for tenants of private registered providers of social housing (PRPSH)

  • permanent loss of secure tenancy status in the case of a PRPSH secure tenant

  • permanent loss of right to buy in the case of an PRPSH assured tenant with the preserved right to buy

Discrimination in demotion claims

It is unlawful for a person managing any premises to discriminate against a person with a 'relevant protected characteristic' (ie disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief).

The Equality Act 2010 incorporated all previous anti-discrimination provisions into a single Act and simplifies the law to make it easier to tackle discrimination and inequality. For further information see Discrimination and housing.

Last updated: 24 March 2021


  • [1]

    Civil Procedure Rules 15.4.

  • [2]

    Defending demoted tenancy claims - part 1, Legal Action, September 2004.