A man facing eviction from the council flat he had lived in for nearly 20 years hanged himself on the balcony moments before bailiffs smashed their way in.

Richard Perkins had been told the council was not obliged to rehouse him after his tenancy agreement came to an end.

Housing officers and court bailiffs battled to save his life after finding him on the balcony where he had used a wire washing line as a noose.

When they heard no response from inside the flat, the locks were drilled out and the door smashed open with a hammer.

A post mortem examination found no drugs or alcohol in his body.

Mr Perkins, 63, had lived at the flat in Whitehawk, Brighton, since 1999, his inquest heard. He moved into the flat with his best friend as his carer.

When the friend inherited money and moved out, the joint tenancy agreement was terminated in February.

Housing officers in Brighton were not obliged to find him a new home, the inquest heard, and Mr Perkins was told he would have to leave the flat at Kingfisher Court.

He was told in writing the eviction would be carried out June 14.

Rachel Chasseaud, head of tenancy services for Brighton and Hove City Council, said housing officers had followed council policy.

“In law, if one party ends the joint tenancy it ends the tenancy for both parties,” she told the inquest. “In line with council policy, we would only do so if we had a statutory duty to rehouse.

“We would give them time and advice but we don’t have a legal duty to rehouse them.”

Mr Perkins was given extensions by the council to stay in the flat and offered help with finding new accommodation, the inquest heard.

Miss Chasseaud said: “It is very difficult. The council policy reflects the housing need in the city.

“We have about 15,000 on the housing register. It is unfortunate but the way the council policy is structured, we find accommodation for those in most need. Obviously, it’s a terribly tragic situation. The officers dealing all acted within the policies.”

A coroner in Brighton concluded Mr Perkins had committed suicide very close to his appointment time with bailiffs. A print-out of the appointment was found on his bed and a hand-written note was left in the living room.

The door to the eighth floor flat was locked and bolted from the inside, the inquest heard.

Assistant coroner for Brighton and Hove Catherine Palmer said she was satisfied the premises were locked and secure and recorded the cause of death as hanging.

“I can safely record a conclusion of suicide,” the coroner said.

In a statement released on his death, Brighton and Hove City Council offered condolences to Mr Perkins’ family and friends.

It said: “Council staff and the county court bailiff went to the property on Thursday to carry out an eviction and knocked on the door. But there was no reply nor any signs that Richard was in the property.

“However, when staff entered the property they found Richard’s body. The ambulance, police and coroner were called and attended.

“Richard’s co-tenant moved out of the property in February and in doing so ended the tenancy.

“We then began trying to assist Richard to find alternative accommodation and allowed him to stay in the property longer to help him.

“We had been in communication with Richard throughout and had let him know we would have to take back the property.

“We also sent notice of the possession date, but Richard did not reply and had stopped engaging with us.

“This is a tragic case and our deepest sympathies are with Richard’s family.”