Types of tenancy
Different council tenants have different tenancies. These give you different rights and responsibilities.
Your tenancy agreement is a legal document and tells you all the rules about living in your property.
All new tenants will have an introductory tenancy to start with.
An introductory tenancy is a one-year trial council tenancy. It gives you most of the same rights as a secure council tenancy but you can be evicted much more easily. As long as you don't break your tenancy agreement while you are an introductory tenant, you will automatically become a secure tenant.
You will normally be an introductory tenant for 12 months from the date your tenancy started or the date you moved in - whichever is later. You will normally become a secure tenant automatically after the first year has passed as long as the council doesn't:
- start action to evict you during the 12-month period; or
- decide to extend your introductory for a further six months
If you have spent time as an introductory tenant in another property before your current tenancy started, the time you spent there should count towards the 12 months. For example, if you lived in your previous home for six months, you should only have to spend six moths as an introductory tenant in your new home. If you lived there for more than a year, you should be given a secure tenancy straight away. The same applies if you had a starter tenancy with a housing association immediately before you got your council tenancy.
If you have a joint tenancy, the trial period ends as soon as one of the joint tenants has completed the trial period.
Introductory tenants can be evicted much more easily than secure tenants. The council doesn't have to prove a legal reason in court (known as a ground) The most common reasons they might try to evict you include if you:
- have caused nuisance to neighbours
- haven't paid the rent or you have paid it late on a regular basis
- move out of your home and rent it to someone else
The council has to give you at least four weeks' written notice that they are going to ask the court to evict you and explain the reasons why. The notice must tell you that you have a right to request a review of their decision.
Most council tenants are secure tenants. If the tenant is in arrears with rent, has breached any conditions of the tenancy agreement with the council or if the council considers that the tenant is engaging in anti-social behaviour we serve a Notice of Seeking Possession. There are nine other grounds for serving a Notice of Seeking Possession, but the most common grounds are rent arrears or breach of conditions of the tenancy or anti-social behaviour.
The Notice of Seeking Possession sets out why the notice is being served. The amount of the arrears of rent is stated, if there are arrears. It states which condition has been breached and gives the details of what the council considers has been done or not done to breach the condition, if there is a breach of any condition. It gives details of the behaviour which the council considers to be anti-social and the effect it is having on the neighbourhood and other residents, if anti-social behaviour is involved.
The notice of seeking possession tells the tenant how to get help with their housing and problems and states that proceedings to obtain an order for possession from the county court will not be commenced until after a stated date. That date is 4 weeks after the notice is served on the tenant. The tenant then has 4 weeks in which to rectify the breaches and get assistance before any action is taken in the Court.
The exception to the 4 weeks' 'grace' is a notice of seeking possession which includes allegations of anti-social behaviour. In that case proceedings can be commenced in the county court immediately, but the council has to prove to the
Court that the behaviour was so serious, a wait of 4 weeks was unreasonable considering the effect the behaviour was having on the neighbourhood.
The judge in the county court must be satisfied that it is reasonable to grant a possession order. The judge usually has two options, to grant a possession order and if the tenant does not leave the property the county court bailiffs will evict them (after the council has applied for a warrant of possession); or the action can be adjourned with the council able to come back to Court if the tenant continues to fail to pay the rent and some payment to clear the arrears, continues to breach a condition or indulge in anti-social behaviour.
If a secure tenant is considered by the council to be guilty of anti-social behaviour the council can serve a notice before proceedings for a Demotion Order and apply to the county court for the secure tenancy to end and the tenancy to become a demoted tenancy. Again, the notice must detail the anti-social behaviour complained of, tell the tenant where they can get advice and assistance and the notice must state that proceedings cannot be taken until after a certain date which must be 4 weeks from the date the notice is served. So the tenant has 4 weeks in which to modify his or her behaviour.
If proceedings are commenced the judge in the county court has to be satisfied that anti-social behaviour has occurred and it is reasonable to demote the tenancy. A demoted tenancy lasts for one year and then reverts to a secure tenancy.
During that year, if the council decides(1) that the tenant is not complying with the conditions of the tenancy a Notice of Proceedings for Possession can be served (this notice must contain the same information as the notice before proceedings for a demotion order - plus how to ask for a review). Within 14 days of the service of the notice the tenant can ask for the decision(1) to be reviewed by a person not involved in decision(1). The independent person will review the decision (1) and make decision (2). If decision (2) is that the council should take proceedings against the tenant the judge in the county court must grant an order for possession, he has no discretion, provided the notice of proceedings for possession was correct and any review had been properly conducted.
Some tenants are not secure tenants or introductory tenants, for example people given accommodation on a temporary basis because they are homeless.
If the council decides they should leave the accommodation a Notice to Quit is served on the tenant and we have to give them 4 weeks to leave the property. If the tenant does not leave we can commence proceedings in the county court for possession of the accommodation. There is no defence against an order of possession; provided proper notice has been given the Court must grant an order.