Tenant rights

Social housing tenants have a variety of rights which are set out in their Tenancy Agreements; some of these rights are explained in more detail below.

Security of tenure - Tenancy Standard

All social housing landlords are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing which sets a series of requirements; these are called the Regulatory Standards.

The Tenancy Standard ensures that social housing landlords offer tenants the right types of tenancy agreements and options for moving home.

Your security of tenure will be defined by whether your landlord is a housing association, local authority or a co-operative. You should refer to your occupancy agreement which will define the type of agreement it is and if you require further clarification, do ask your landlord or speak to an external organisation such as Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Right to Repair

If you are a local authority tenant, your landlord must have a right to repair scheme in place. You have a legal right to have your certain types of repairs, known as qualifying repairs, carried out in specific timescales; if those repair are not carried out within those timescales you can claim compensation from your landlord. A full list of the qualifying repairs is shown in the table below.

Repair Type Response Time (Working Days)
Total loss of electric power 1
Partial loss of electric power 3
Unsafe power or lighting socket or electrical fitting 1
Total loss of water supply 1
Partial loss of water supply 3
Total or partial loss of gas supply 1
Blocked flue on open fire or boiler 1
Heating or hot water not working between 31st October and 1st May 1
Heating or hot water not working between 1st May and 31st October 3
Blocked or leaking foul drain, soil stack or toilet 1
Toilet not flushing (if it is the only toilet in your home) 1
Blocked sink, bath or basin 3
Water tap that cannot be turned 3
Leak from a water pipe, tank or toilet cistern 1
Leaking roof 7
Insecure external window, door or lock 1
Loose or detached banister or hand rail 3
Rotten wooden flooring or stair tread 3
Door entry phone not working 7
Mechanical extractor fan not working 7

A repair won’t qualify for the scheme if:

  • it exceeds an estimated cost of £250, or
  • the local authority has fewer than 100 properties, or
  • the local authority isn’t responsible for the repair.

The Right to Mutual Exchange

A mutual exchange is a legal right, detailed in the Housing Act 1985, and is when two or more tenants swap properties with each other and in doing so, pass on any legal interest in the tenancy. When a mutual exchange takes place, each tenant takes on the original terms of the tenancy agreement of the person they have swapped with.

To swap your home you need to:

  • find someone to swap homes with
  • get written permission from your landlords
  • complete the legal paperwork

A mutual exchange is not the same as getting a tenancy transfer; this is when you apply to move to another council or housing association home. You usually have to go on a waiting list unless you have a very urgent need to move.

You can usually exchange homes with your landlord’s written permission if you have:

  • a secure local authority tenancy
  • a flexible (fixed term) local authority tenancy
  • a fully assured housing association tenancy
  • a secure housing association tenancy
  • an assured shorthold housing association tenancy (only for a fixed term of at least two years)

You cannot exchange a starter, introductory or demoted tenancy.

Ask your landlord for permission to exchange when you find a tenant who is happy to swap. You must get permission and follow the proper process; if you swap homes without permission or the right documents this could put you both at risk of eviction.

Local authorities and housing associations can only refuse permission for a mutual exchange on legal grounds, including if:

  • you are being evicted
  • you work for your landlord and your home comes with your job
  • your home is adapted for someone with special needs and nobody in the new tenant’s household has those needs
  • the home you want to move to is larger than you need or is too small and your household would be overcrowded

The Right to Succession

Local authority and housing association tenancies contain a legal right of succession, detailed in the Housing Acts 1985 and 1988. One statutory succession is allowed.

The Localism Act 2011 changed the succession rights of people living with secure local authority tenants in England where the tenancy was created after 1st April 2012. In these cases, a statutory right to succeed is limited to the spouse or partner of the deceased tenant. This has always been the case in regard to succession to an assured housing association tenancy.

For secure tenancies created before 1 April 2012, the right to succeed may, currently, be claimed by a member of the deceased tenant’s family, subject to certain eligibility criteria.

Right to Buy

Right to Buy allows most local authority tenants to buy their home at a discount. The eligibility checker on the Own Your Home website will tell you if you can apply in England; there are different rules for the rest of the UK.

You can apply to buy your local authority home if:
• it is your only or main home
• it is self-contained
• you are a secure tenant
• you have been a secure tenant for 3 years



Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults

Statutory responsibilities for social housing landlords under the Children Act 2004 placed responsibilities on them to protect children. The Care Act 2014 extended that responsibility to protect vulnerable adults alongside their existing responsibility for safeguarding children.

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