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.

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.

If you are a co-operative you have no legal Right to Exchange, however some co-operatives have written a right into their tenancy.  You will need to check your tenancy agreement.

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.

If you are a co-operative you have no legal Right to Succession, however some co-operatives have written a right into their tenancy.  You will need to check your tenancy agreement.

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.

The Right to Aquire

You might be able to buy your rented housing association home at a discount through the Right to Acquire scheme. You and your landlord must meet the eligibility requirements to apply.

If you are a co-operative you have no legal Right to Acquire or Right to Buy.

Eligible properties

Your property must either have been:

  • built or bought by a housing association after 31st March 1997 (and funded through a social housing grant)
  • transferred from a local authority to a housing association after 31st March 1997
  • your landlord must be registered with the Regulator of Social Housing
  • the home you want to buy must also be a self-contained property and your only or main home.

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