Social housing tenancies

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you (the tenant) and your registered social landlord (the landlord). In return for money (rent) the landlord offers you a place to live. Both you and the landlord sign the tenancy agreement before you move into the property. If you want to share the responsibilities of being a tenant with another person (e.g. your partner), you can apply for a joint tenancy.

The type of tenancy you have depends on things like:

  • whether your landlord is a council or housing association
  • whether you are a new council or housing association tenant
  • the type of property you live in

The different tenancies can be similar in many ways (like the need for you to pay rent on time) but they also have important differences. Jump to: 

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Starter tenancies

If you are a new housing association tenant you may be offered a starter tenancy – normally lasting 12 months. This is to prove you are a responsible tenant before the housing association offers you an assured tenancy.

Your starter tenancy can be ended easily if you break the tenancy conditions. Tenancy conditions are ‘rules’ about living in the property – like paying the rent on time.

As a starter tenant you must, for example:

  • pay the rent on time
  • keep the property in good condition
  • make sure that anyone living at, or visiting the property does not cause a nuisance to neighbours
  • not use the property for doing something illegal – e.g. drug dealing
  • let workmen into your property to carry out repairs

Your tenancy agreement is a legal document and states all the conditions about living in the property – it also details most of your rights. Your housing association should explain the tenancy in detail before you sign it. Your landlord has to:

  • maintain the structure and exterior of your home
  • make sure things like gas and electricity appliances are in good working order – as well as sinks and toilets.

You will usually become an assured tenant 12 months from the date your starter tenancy began. If the housing association thinks that you have broken (breached) the conditions of your tenancy agreement it may extend your starter tenancy. Your housing association can also start action to evict you.

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Assured tenancies

Usually you become an assured tenant after successfully completing a starter tenancy. This trial period is to prove you are a responsible tenant before the housing association offers you an assured tenancy.

If you are an assured tenant you have strong rights. If you do not break the tenancy conditions, you will usually be able to stay in your home for the rest of your life. Tenancy conditions are rules about living in the property – like paying the rent on time.

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Assured shorthold tenancy

If you live in supported housing you may have (or be offered) an assured shorthold tenancy. This type of tenancy gives you fewer rights than an assured tenancy. For example, the housing association can get the property back after six months (by giving you two months’ notice).

As an assured tenant you must, for example:

  • pay the rent on time
  • keep the property in good condition
  • make sure that anyone living at, or visiting the property does not cause a nuisance to neighbours
  • not use the property for doing something illegal – e.g. drug dealing
  • let workmen into your property to carry out repairs

As an assured tenant you normally have the right to, for example:

  • live in your home for the rest of your life – unless the housing association needs to move you to another property, eg because of redevelopment
  • buy your home after a certain amount of time at a discount – this is called the ‘Right to Acquire’
  • have your home repaired – most repairs are the responsibility of your housing association, though you are likely to be responsible for minor maintenance
  • transfer your tenancy to someone else, with the housing association’s permission
  • Demoted tenancies’ – fewer rights if you cause problems

If you are involved in anti-social behaviour your housing association may ‘demote’ your tenancy. This means you lose certain rights for a period of time and can be evicted more easily if you continue to misbehave.

Anti-social behaviour includes:

  • causing a nuisance to your neighbours – even if it is someone who visits your home who is responsible
  • using your home for something illegal – such as drug dealing
  • vandalism and graffiti
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How your rights are affected

Your housing association cannot demote your tenancy without getting permission from a court. If the court grants your housing association a ‘demotion order’, you lose some of your rights – e.g. the Right to Acquire scheme is suspended.

Demoted tenancies usually last one year. If you do not break the terms of your tenancy again during this time, you should automatically become an assured tenant again after 12 months.

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Contact information

The gov.uk website has further information.


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