Pre-action eviction rules
Before starting court action to evict you from your secure council tenancy, the council must follow rules set out in a special pre-action protocol.
Eviction for rent arrears
Before starting court action
Before your landlord takes steps to evict you for rent arrears, they should contact you to talk about:
- the cause of your arrears
- your financial circumstances
- your entitlement to benefits
- how you plan to repay the arrears
You should try to come to an agreement with your landlord about paying any arrears. Make sure anything you agree is affordable.
If necessary, your landlord should help you with any applications for housing benefit, universal credit (housing costs) or a discretionary housing payment. Your landlord should not start eviction proceedings if:
- you have applied for one of these benefits
- it is likely that you are eligible for a payment
- you can make up any arrears not covered by housing benefit, universal credit or a discretionary housing payment
If you are getting other benefits, your landlord should help you apply to have your arrears paid directly from those benefits.
Your landlord should send you a quarterly rent statement saying how much rent is due. The statement should set out all the payments received, whether these were paid by you, housing benefit or a discretionary housing payment. It should also have a clear running total of the arrears.
For a joint tenancy, each of the tenants should be contacted separately to make sure that everyone is aware of the problem.
After giving you a notice
After giving you a notice your landlord should continue to make attempts to contact you to discuss your arrears. They must do this before beginning court proceedings.
Your landlord should hold off on court action if you agree to pay your current rent and a reasonable amount towards your arrears and you stick to this arrangement.
Once court action has started
Once your landlord has started court action, at least 10 days before the court hearing, your landlord should:
- give you up-to-date rent statements
- give you notice of the court date, and tell you that your home is at risk if you do not attend
- tell you what they know about any claim you have made for housing benefit or help with your housing costs under universal credit.
If you have difficulty reading or understanding information, your landlord should try to make sure that you understand the information you are being given about eviction. They can do this, for example, by explaining it to you in more detail or providing an interpreter.
Ask for help if you have difficulty reading or understanding the information.
If you are particularly vulnerable (for example elderly, disabled, or suffering from mental illness) or you are under 18 years old, your landlord may need to:
- apply to the court for someone to be appointed to represent you in court if you are not able to defend yourself. This representative is called a ‘litigation friend’
- consider whether you have been discriminated against because of your age or vulnerability
- consider whether you should have a needs assessment by social services.
Eviction under mandatory grounds
Before starting any court proceedings under a mandatory ground (for example, because you have been convicted of a serious criminal offence or breached an anti-social behaviour order), your landlord should:
- write to you explaining their reasons for wanting to evict you;
- give you the chance to put forward any personal circumstances or other reasons why you should be allowed to stay.
If your landlord decides to continue with court proceedings they should explain how they have considered your personal circumstances and provide written reasons why they have decided to continue.
What if my landlord doesn’t follow the pre-action protocol?
Your landlord may have to explain to the court how they have followed the protocol.
If they have not done everything they should, the court can:
- adjourn (postpone), strike out or dismiss your landlord’s claim – this can only happen if your landlord is trying to evict you on ‘discretionary’ grounds
- decide that your landlord must pay court costs – this can happen even if your landlord is given a court order to evict you.
Get advice if you think your landlord has not followed the pre-action protocol.