Secure housing association tenancies

Secure tenants have relatively strong rights in comparison to other housing association tenants. Most people with secure tenancies have been renting their homes since before 1989.

Are you a secure tenant?

You are likely to be a secure tenant if your tenancy started before 15 January 1989.

However, there are some exceptions, for example if:

  • your tenancy has been demoted because of antisocial behaviour
  • you live in a hostel or supported housingrun by a housing association
  • your property was transferred from the council to a housing association via stock transfer
  • you work for the housing association and your home comes with your job
  • you have changed housing association landlords following a mutual exchange (tenancy swap) after 15 January 1989
  • you are the tenant of a housing co-operative or a non-mutual housing association

If you moved into your current home after 15 January 1989 but had a secure tenancy in a different property owned by the same housing association before that date, your are probably still a secure tenant.

Housing associations provide a written tenancy agreement to all new tenants. It should state clearly what kind of tenancy you have and explain your rights and responsibilities. The housing association can't normally make changes to your tenancy agreement without your written consent.

Eviction of secure housing association tenants

As a secure tenant, you have the right to live in your home as long as you don't break the rules of your tenancy agreement. The housing association should only evict you as a last resort. They must have a legal reason (known as a ground) and get a court order. In some cases it may have to offer you a suitable home elsewhere.

Find out more about the eviction of housing association tenants.

Rules on rent and rent increases

All secure tenants of housing associations pay fair rents. There are rules about how and when the rent can be increased. Your tenancy agreement should include an explanation on the procedures involved.

Your rent should always be your top financial priority, even if you have other debts. You could lose your home if you get into rent arrears.

You may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay the rent if you receive benefits or have a low income. An adviser at your local Citizens Advice can check whether you are claiming everything you are entitled to.

Responsibility for repairs

The housing association is responsible for most repairs, including any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, doors, plumbing and brickwork. They also have to ensure that the gas and electricity appliances are working safely.

Report the problem to the housing association immediately if your home needs repairs.

The housing association should consult you before starting any major repair work. If you have to move out while the work is done, the housing association probably has to rehouse you (temporarily or permanently), and you may be entitled to claim compensation.

The housing association should give you information about what repairs you are responsible for, which usually includes internal decoration and putting right any damage you cause.

Having a lodger or subletting your home

As a secure tenant you automatically have the right to take in a lodger and can probably sublet part of your home (such as a bedroom) if you get written permission from the housing association first. Check to see what your tenancy agreement says about lodgers and subletting. The housing association can't refuse permission without a good reason, but one reason might be that your home would be overcrowded if someone else moved in.

If you claim benefits, the amount you get could be reduced, even if your lodger or subtenant doesn't pay you any rent. This also applies to partners or adult family members who move in with you.

You lose your secure status and the housing association can end your tenancy very easily if  you sublet the whole of your home to someone else.

It is possible to spend time living somewhere else and still keep your tenancy. To do this, you must be able to show that you are planning to return, for example, by leaving your personal belongings at home. If you need to spend time living elsewhere, get advice before you move out.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre near you.

Passing on your tenancy when you die

Secure tenancies can be passed on to your partner, civil partner or cohabiting partner when you die. This is known as succession. If you have a joint tenancy, the other joint tenant automatically takes over the tenancy if you die. Only one succession is normally allowed.

Another member of the family can succeed to a secure tenancy if they have lived with you for at least the past 12 months.

Read more about succession rights to housing association tenancies.

Passing on your tenancy during your lifetime

This process is called assignment. As a secure tenant you have the right to assign your tenancy to any person who would be eligible to take on the tenancy by succession. Get advice before you do this. If the correct process isn't followed, you could still be legally responsible for paying the rent and the person who stays on could be evicted.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre near you.

Transfers or exchanges of housing association homes

Tenants who want to move home may be able to get a transfer to another property owned by their housing association or to one owned by a council. Most councils and housing associations have a waiting list for tenants who want a transfer. However, you may have to wait a long time until a new property is available, particularly if you have a large family.

Alternatively, you may be able to exchange your home with someone who rents from the same housing association, a different housing association or a local council. It may be possible to exchange with someone locally or in another part of the country.

You must both have permission from your landlords and the exchange must be arranged properly. Otherwise, you could both lose your homes. Landlords can only withhold permission for specific reasons, such as if an exchange would lead to overcrowding. It's essential to get advice about the paperwork involved and check whether you would have a different type of tenancy (which might give you fewer rights) after the exchange.

Buying your housing association home

Only certain housing association tenants have the Right to Buy. You may qualify if:

  • you used to be a council tenant, and
  • your home was transferred from a local authority to a housing association and you have a preserved Right to Buy, and
  • your tenancy has not been demoted at any time

If you don't have the Right to Buy, there is a similar scheme for other housing association tenants (the right to acquire), although only a few tenants are eligible for this, and the discounts are much less.

Alternatively, you may be able to buy a home through a number of other home-ownership schemes designed to help tenants get onto the property ladder. Contact your housing association and the local council to find out what schemes are available in your area.

Get involved in the management of your home

Your housing association should consult and involve you in decisions that are likely to affect you. You might be able to join a tenants' committee and help in the running of the housing association.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean that it has to act on your wishes. Ask the housing association for more information about how you can get involved and how final decisions are made.

Find out more about your rights

Check your tenancy agreement and tenants' handbook, because some housing associations give their tenants additional rights.

If you are in any doubt about a legal issue, check with your local Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre near you.

Making a complaint

If you feel that the housing association isn't treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its responsibilities, you should use its official complaints procedure. You usually have to do this before you can take things any further.

You can complain further to the Housing Ombudsman Service if  you are not satisfied with the response you receive from your  housing association .

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