Repossession of rented social housing
Can the local authority repossess my home?
Your local authority can only repossess your rented local authority home for certain reasons and they must follow set procedures. These procedures apply if the local authority wants to repossess a home because:
- There has been a serious or repeated breach of a condition of the tenancy agreement, for example, anti-social behaviour or not paying the rent
- The property has been abandoned by the tenant and is occupied by a squatter
- The tenant has died and the property is occupied by someone who is not entitled to succeed to the tenancy
What is a tenancy warning?
Under repossesion procedures the local authority should send you a tenancy warning if there is an alleged breach of your tenancy conditions. For example, if you don’t pay your rent or there is anti-social behaviour.
The local authority may not need to issue a tenancy warning, if there is a very serious breach of the tenancy conditions. But, if the local authority applies to repossess the property without first issuing a tenancy warning, the application for a possession order must state the reasons why no warning was issued.
These repossession procedures and the requirements for tenancy warnings are set out in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 and the Housing (Local Authority Tenancy Warnings) Regulations 2015.
Tenancy warning for anti-social behaviour
You can be sent a tenancy warning for anti-social behaviour and similar behaviour. This type of behaviour can include:
- Being a nuisance
- Acting in a way that is likely to annoy or disturb neighbours
- Allowing someone to be in the property who has an order excluding them from it
A tenancy warning for anti-social behaviour must:
- Set out what part of the tenancy agreement has been breached, the nature of the breach and the name (if known) of the household member involved
- Say when the breach occurred and its detrimental effects on the quality of life of people living nearby
- Require the tenant to ensure that the household member involved does (or stops doing) certain things so as to stop these detrimental effects continuing or happening again
- Warn the tenant that the local authority may initiate repossession proceedings or seek an excluding order if the breach continues or happens again within 12 months
- Warn the tenant that this tenancy warning may be taken into account over the next 3 years if the tenant, the household or the household member involved wishes to buy a local authority house or to be allocated another local authority dwelling
- Set out the tenant’s right to request a review of the tenancy warning
The detail about this is set-out in Section 7 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.
Tenancy warning for rent arrears
You can get a tenancy warning for breaking your rent-related obligations. For example, not paying the rent agreed in the tenancy agreement or repayments agreed in a rescheduling arrangement.
The tenancy warning must:
- Set out the rent-related obligation that has been breached, the amount of arrears now owing and the period over which rent was not paid
- Require the tenant to pay the arrears immediately or, in case of hardship, contact the local authority to discuss rescheduling the payments
- Warn the tenant that the local authority may initiate repossession proceedings if the arrears are not paid or rescheduled within 2 months
- Warn the tenant that, even if the rent arrears are paid or rescheduled within 2 months, the local authority may initiate repossession proceedings (without a further tenancy warning) if the tenant misses a payment in the next 12 months, unless a further rescheduling is arranged
- Set out the legal provisions as regards rent arrears that have not been rescheduled
- Set out the tenant’s right to request a review of the tenancy warning
If the local authority knows that the tenant has other debts as well as the rent arrears, the tenancy warning must also include information on sources of advice on problem debt in general.
The detail about this is set-out in Section 8 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.
What happens when you get a tenancy warning?
You can request an internal review of a tenancy warning. This should be made within 10 working days of the warning being issued, or within 20 working days in exceptional circumstances.
Your request for a review should:
- Outline why you are requesting the review
- Include any supporting documents and indicate
- State if you or a household member wants to make oral representation as part of the review
If you do not ask for a review, the warning takes effect from the second working day after the period for requesting a review has expired. If you asked for a review, and the warning has been upheld or varied, it comes into effect on the second working day after the decision was sent to the tenant.
Who reviews the tenancy warning and how long does the review take?
The review must be carried out by a local authority official who was not involved in the initial warning and who is more senior than the official who issued the warning.
In general, the reviewer should conclude the review within 20 working days of being appointed. However, if the review involves meeting the tenant or a household member, or if a change to the warning is proposed, this may take up to 30 working days. The reviewer can decide to confirm the tenancy warning, vary its terms (after giving the tenant a chance for feedback) or cancel the warning. The local authority must send the tenant a written copy of the decision.
In the case of intimidation, the reviewer can accept a statement by a Garda or a local authority official as evidence that a person has been engaged in anti-social behaviour.
What happens if the local authority applies for repossession?
If you do not deal with the breach of the tenancy agreement, even after the tenancy warning, the local authority can apply to the District Court for a possession order to repossess the property. The court may order:
- That the tenancy ends, or
- A member of the household is excluded from the tenancy, in the case of anti-social behaviour
The local authority must give you at least 10 days’ notice of the court hearing. But, if the breach of the tenancy agreement is having serious effects on people living nearby, it must give you a copy of the possession application as soon as it applies for the order. This must include a written explanation of why you were not given the 10 days’ notice.
The possession application must give:
- The reasons for the application, including full details of the breach of the tenancy agreement
- The name of person causing it
- Its effects on people living nearby
The application must also give details of any tenancy warnings you or a household member have received in the last 5 years. If you didn’t get a tenancy warning for the current breach, the application must give reasons why none was issued. If there is a tenancy warning for a similar breach currently under review, the application must give the reasons why the possession order is being sought at the same time.
If a possession order is granted, it gives the date on which the local authority can repossess the property. This must be no sooner than 2 months (and no later than 9 months) after the date of the order. The tenancy will be terminated on the date that the local authority takes possession of the property under the possession order.
Repossesion of abandoned properties
In certain circumstances, a local authority can enter an abandoned property that is at risk of damage or trespass. The local authority can do this either with the tenant’s consent or with a warrant from the District Court. However, if the property has been vandalised or is at imminent risk of damage, the local authority can enter it to do whatever is necessary, without getting a warrant.
If a local authority plans to repossess an abandoned property, it must give the tenant 4 weeks to confirm if they intend to occupy it again. After 4 weeks, the local authority can serve a notice on the tenant, ending the tenancy. They can then take possession of the property without any further proceedings. The former tenant may apply to the District Court (within 6 months) for the termination to be reconsidered.
This is set-out in Section 14 of the Act.
Repossession where people living in the property are not tenants
If someone who is not entitled to a tenancy is occupying a property, the local authority can apply to the District Court for a possession order. The local authority must ensure it protects the identity of the person who informed it about the occupation, if this is necessary.
If the tenant has died and the occupier is (or claims to be) a member of the late tenant’s household, but is not entitled to succeed to the tenancy, the local authority can apply for a possession order. If the occupier has applied for a succession tenancy and been refused, the possession application must give the basis for that refusal and refer to the local authority’s written policy on succession tenancies.
At least 10 working days before the District Court hearing, the local authority must give the occupant written notice of the hearing and details of the possession application.
The court can make a possession order if it appears that:
- The local authority has grounds for the recovery of possession
- Repossession is a proportionate response to the occupier’s occupation of the property
- Making the order is reasonable in all the circumstances
Appealing a possession order
You can appeal the District Court’s decision to grant a possession order to the Circuit Court. You can make a further appeal on a point of law to the High Court.
Repossession of properties rented by approved housing bodies
Approved housing bodies (AHBs) can evict you without any reason as long as they follow the correct procedure. This means first issuing a notice to quit and then applying to court for a possession order. However, in practice, AHBs do not evict their tenants without reason. So, if you pay your rent and comply with other conditions of the tenancy, you will normally be able to stay in your home for as long as you want.
If you are in temporary accommodation provided by a housing association, such as a short-term hostel, your position is much weaker and legally the housing association does not even need to issue a notice to quit. However, in practice, AHBs do not evict their tenants without reason.