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Renting from a social housing landlord

Who is a tenant of a social housing landlord

You are a tenant of a social housing landlord if you are a tenant of:

  • a local authority. These are district councils and London borough councils; or
  • a housing association.

Local authority tenants

If you are a tenant of a local authority you are likely to be a secure tenant or an introductory tenant. For more details on introductory tenants, see under heading Introductory tenants. In England, from 1 April 2012, local authorities can also grant flexible tenancies. For more details on flexible tenants, see under heading Flexible tenants.

Housing association tenants

Tenancy began before 15 January 1989

If you are a housing association tenant and your tenancy began before 15 January 1989, you will be a secure tenant. For details about the rights a secure tenant has, see below.

Tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989

If you are a housing association tenant and your tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989, you are likely to be an assured tenant. For details about the rights an assured tenant has, see under heading Rights of assured tenants.

Some housing association tenants may be starter tenants for the first 12 to 18 months. A starter tenancy is a type of assured shorthold tenancy. For more details on starter tenants, see under heading Starter tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies.

In England, from 1 April 2012, housing associations can use assured shorthold tenancies for tenancies other than starter tenancies.

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Rights of secure tenants

As a secure tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation unless your landlord can convince the court that there are special reasons to evict you, for example, you have rent arrears, damaged property or broken some other term of the agreement. For more details on eviction see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation.

As a secure tenant you can enforce your rights, for example, to get repairs done, without worrying about being evicted. As well as the right to stay in your home as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy, you will also have other rights by law: These include the right:

  • to have certain repairs carried out by your landlord
  • to carry out certain repairs and to do improvements yourself - see under heading Repairs and improvements
  • to sublet part of your home with your landlord’s permission
  • to take in lodgers without your landlord’s permission
  • to exchange your home with certain other social housing tenants
  • if you are a local authority tenant, the right to vote to transfer to another landlord
  • to be kept informed about things relating to your tenancy
  • to buy your home.

For more details on the right to buy see The right to buy.

  • if you are a housing association tenant whose tenancy started before 15 January 1989, the right to a ‘fair rent’ - see under heading Fixing and increasing the rent
  • for your spouse, civil partner, other partner or in some cases a resident member of your family, to take over the tenancy on your death (the right of ‘succession’)
  • to assign (pass on) the tenancy to a person who has the right of ‘succession’ to the tenancy. This is sometimes difficult to enforce
  • if you are a local authority tenant, to take over the management of the estate with other tenants by setting up a Tenant Management Organisation
  • not to be discriminated against because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

You will usually have a written tenancy agreement which may give you more rights than those set out above.

Complaints about secure tenancies

Each social housing landlord must have a clear policy and procedure on dealing with complaints. You should have the opportunity to complain in a range of ways.

If after using your landlord's complaints procedure you are still dissatisfied, you can complain to an Ombudsman about certain problems. In England, if you are a local authority tenant this will be the Local Government Ombudsman, and if you are a housing association tenant it will be the Housing Ombudsman. If you have suffered discrimination, you can complain about this to the Ombudsman.

In Wales, you can complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

For more information, in England, see How to use an Ombudsman in England or in Wales, see How to use an Ombudsman in Wales.

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Rights of assured tenants

As an assured tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless your landlord can convince the court there are reasons to evict you, for example, that there are rent arrears, damage to the property, or that another of the terms of the agreement has been broken. For more details on security of tenure, see under heading The right to stay in accommodation.

As an assured tenant you can enforce your rights, for example, to get repairs done, without worrying about getting evicted. As well as the right to stay in your home as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy you will also have other rights by law including:-

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
  • the right to carry out minor repairs yourself and to receive payment for these from your landlord - see under heading Repairs and improvements
  • the right for your spouse, civil partner or other partner to take over the tenancy on your death (the right of ‘succession’)
  • the right not to be treated unfairly by your landlord because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexuality.

You will usually have a written tenancy agreement which may give you more rights than those set out above.

Complaints about assured tenancies

Each housing association must have a clear policy and procedure on dealing with complaints. You should have the opportunity to complain in a range of ways.

If after using your landlord's complaints procedure you are still dissatisfied, you can complain in England, to the Housing Ombudsman, or in Wales, to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

For more information, in England, see How to use an Ombudsman in England or in Wales, see How to use an Ombudsman in Wales.

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Starter tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies

A starter tenancy is the name often used by housing associations to describe an assured shorthold tenancy. Starter tenancies are probationary tenancies which allow a landlord to evict you more easily if you break the terms of your tenancy agreement.

A starter tenancy generally lasts for 12 months, although they can be extended to 18 months. As long as no action has been taken by the landlord to end the tenancy within the starter period, the starter tenant can then become an assured or longer-term assured shorthold tenant in England, or an assured tenant in Wales.

In England, housing associations can use assured shorthold tenancies for tenancies other than starter tenancies. They are likely to last for a fixed term of five years or more, but in some cases will last for two years. These tenancies may also be on 'affordable rent' terms. For more information on affordable rent, see under heading Affordable rent.

In England, if you have an assured shorthold tenancy of a fixed term of two years or more with a housing association landlord, you will generally have similar rights to an assured tenant. However, if you have a fixed term tenancy, you only have the right to stay in your home for the length of the fixed term.

Complaints about starter and assured shorthold tenancies

Each housing association must have a clear policy and procedure on dealing with complaints. You should have the opportunity to complain in a range of ways.

If after using your landlord's complaints procedure you are still dissatisfied, you can complain in England, to the Housing Ombudsman, or in Wales, to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

For more information, How to use an Ombudsman.

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Fixing and increasing the rent

Secure tenants

Local authority tenancies

Rents for local authority tenants are fixed according to the local authority’s housing policy and the amount of money they get from central government. You cannot control the amount of rent payable, but may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay it.

For information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

If you are getting into arrears with your rent, in England and Wales see Rent arrears in Credit and debt fact sheets.

Housing association tenancies which began before 15 January 1989

If you are a housing association tenant whose tenancy started before 15 January 1989 you are a secure tenant, but your rent is generally a ‘fair rent’ registered by the Rent Officer. The housing association will usually have had the rent registered.

Once a rent has been registered, a new rent cannot usually be considered for the accommodation for two years. The rent can only be increased if:-

  • you ask for a new fair rent assessment after two years
  • your landlord asks for a new fair rent assessment after one year and nine months, although any new rent would not become effective until the end of two years.

An application for a rent increase can be made earlier, but only if the tenancy has changed drastically or if you and your landlord apply together.

If you need help paying the rent you may be able to claim housing benefit.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

If you are getting into arrears with your rent, in England and Wales see Rent arrears in Credit and debt fact sheets.

Assured tenants

Housing association tenancies which began on or after 15 January 1989

Many housing association tenants whose tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989 are assured tenants. If you are an assured tenant, your rent is the rent you agreed to pay your landlord at the beginning of the tenancy and should be covered in your tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement should also state when and how the rent can be increased.

In England, most housing associations are registered with the Homes and Communities Agency and must follow standards and procedures set down by this regulatory body. They are sometimes known as social landlords. They set rents in accordance with government guidance and tenants have to be given clear information about how their rent and service charges are set and how they can be changed.

You may have the right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, if you do not agree to a rent increase.

In Wales, housing associations must manage their housing to standards set by the Welsh Government. You must be informed in writing, and in advance about any changes in your rent. You should be given at least 28 days notice of any increase.

You may have the right to apply to a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales if you do not agree to a rent increase.

If you are a housing association tenant in Wales, there is a leaflet explaining your rights called The Guarantee for Housing Association Residents. You can find this on the Welsh Government website at: www.new.wales.gov.uk.

If you want to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

If you need help paying the rent you may be able to claim housing benefit. You may also be entitled to other benefits if you are on a low income or you are unemployed.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

If you are getting into arrears with your rent, in England and Wales see Rent arrears in Credit and debt fact sheets.

To work out which other benefits you may be entitled to, you should consult an experienced adviser , for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Affordable rent

Affordable rent is a type of social housing provided in England by social housing landlords.

The rent is called ‘affordable’ but it is a higher rent than would normally be charged for social housing. The landlord can charge up to 80% of what it would cost if you were renting the property privately. The extra money from affordable rent homes goes towards building more new social housing.

In most cases, tenancies on affordable rent terms are granted by housing associations. Where the landlord is a housing association, the type of tenancy granted is either an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy. In some cases, a local authority may grant a tenancy on affordable rent terms. Where it does, the tenancy type is either a secure or a flexible tenancy.

An affordable rent can be increased once a year. The maximum amount that an affordable rent can be increased by is Retail Price Index (RPI) + 0.5 %.

If you are on benefits or have a low income you may qualify for housing benefit to help pay some or all of the affordable rent.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

If you are getting into arrears with your rent, see Rent arrears.

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Repairs and improvements

As a tenant you have the right to have your accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair. You have also an obligation to look after the accommodation. The tenancy agreement may give more details of both your landlord’s and your responsibilities in carrying out repairs and you should check this.

For more information about tenancy agreements, see Tenancy agreements.

Certain repairs will almost always be your landlord’s responsibility, whether or not they are specifically mentioned in the tenancy agreement. These are:-

  • the structure and exterior of the premises (such as walls, floors and window frames), and the drains, gutters and external pipes. If the property is a house, the essential means of access to it, such as steps from the street, are also included in ‘structure and exterior’. It also includes garden paths and steps
  • the water and gas pipes and electrical wiring (including, for example, taps and sockets)
  • the basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • fixed heaters (for example, gas fires) and water heaters but not gas or electric cookers.

For more information about repairs, see Repairs in rented housing.

The right to repair

Tenants of local authorities and other social landlords (including housing associations) can use ‘right to repair’ schemes to claim compensation for repairs which the landlord does not carry out within a set timescale.

Local authority tenants have a right to repair scheme which they must follow. Under the scheme, if repairs are not carried out within a fixed time scale, you can notify your landlord that you want a different contractor to do the job. The local authority must appoint a new contractor and set another time limit. You can then claim compensation if the repair is not carried out within the new time limit.

As a local authority tenant, you can currently use the ‘right to repair’ scheme for repairs which your landlord estimates would cost up to £250. You can also claim up to £50 compensation. Twenty types of repairs qualify for the scheme, including insecure doors, broken entry phone systems, blocked sinks and leaking roofs.

A repair will not qualify for the scheme if the local authority has fewer than 100 properties, is not responsible for the repair or if the authority decides it would cost more than £250.

If you're the tenant of another social landlord, such as a housing association, you are entitled to compensation if you report a repair or maintenance problem which affects your health, safety or security and your landlord fails twice to make the repair within the set timescale. There is a flat rate award which is currently £10, plus £2 a day up to a total of £50, for each day the repair remains outstanding. A maximum cost for an eligible repair may be set by the individual landlord. You should contact your landlord for more details about the scheme.

Improvement

As a local authority tenant if you make certain improvements to your home, for example, loft insulation, draught proofing, new baths, basins and toilets and security measures, you can apply for compensation for doing so when you move out. You will not be eligible for this compensation if you buy your home.

Disabled tenants

If you are disabled, you may be able to have alterations carried out to your home. You may first have to get the need for any alterations assessed by the social services department. Alterations could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist or adaptation of a bathroom or toilet.

If you want to get an alteration carried out you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

A disabled tenant may also be able to get a disabled facilities grant to make the home more suitable.

For information about disabled facilities grants, see Help with home improvements.

Gas appliances

Your landlord must make sure that any gas appliances in residential premises are safe. They must arrange for safety checks on appliances and fittings to be carried out at least once every twelve months. The inspection must be carried out by someone who is registered with Gas Safety Register. Their website is: www.gassaferegister.co.uk. The landlord must also keep a record of the date of the check, any problems identified and any action taken. As the tenant, you have the right to see this record as long as you give reasonable notice.

If your landlord does not arrange for checks or refuses to allow you to see the record of the check, you could contact the local Health and Safety Executive office.

For more advice on ways of getting repairs done, see Repairs in rented housing.

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The right to stay in the accommodation

This is an outline of the rights you have as a tenant of a local authority or housing association to stay in your accommodation and how you can be evicted.

For more detailed information on eviction, see Common problems with renting.

Secure tenants

As a secure tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy agreement with your landlord. However, if the tenancy agreement is broken, for example, because of rent arrears or nuisance to neighbours, your landlord can serve a notice on you and apply to the county court for eviction.

A social housing landlord can only evict you if they give you the proper notice and if one of the ‘grounds for possession’ applies.

What constitutes ‘grounds for possession’ is complicated and someone whose landlord is seeking eviction should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

The landlord must apply to the county court to seek possession of the property and a secure tenant can only be evicted if the court grants a possession order to the landlord.

Assured tenants

As an assured tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy agreement with your landlord. However, if the tenancy agreement is broken, for example, because of rent arrears or nuisance to neighbours, your landlord can serve a notice on you.

The housing association will then have to obtain a possession order from the county court by proving that one of the ‘grounds for possession’ applies.

What constitutes ‘grounds for possession’ is complicated and someone whose landlord is seeking eviction should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Social housing tenancies and discrimination

When renting accommodation from a local authority, housing association or other social landlord, they must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This means that they are not allowed to:

  • rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
  • treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
  • evict or harass you because of discrimination
  • charge you higher rent than other tenants
  • refuse to re-house you because of discrimination
  • refuse to carry out repairs to your home because of disrimination
  • refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.

In the block of flats where I live, most of the tenants are Bangladeshi. We never seem to be able to get our repairs done even though a lot of work is needed to our building. We know that there's another block in the area where mostly white people live and they never seem to have to wait for repairs. Both blocks are owned by the council. Is this discrimination? Is there anything we can do about this situation?

There might be good reasons why the other block of flats seems to get things done more quickly. For example, the people in the other block may just need small repairs done, whereas your building may need major repairs. But it may also be the case that your local authority could be discriminating against you whether intentionally or not. You need to get advice from an experienced adviser who will help you decide what action should be taken.

If you think your landlord is discriminating against you, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Introductory tenants

Who is an introductory tenant

Some local authorities make all new tenants introductory tenants for the first 12 months of the tenancy.

Rights of introductory tenants

Introductory tenants have some but not all of the rights of secure tenants. The following table shows your rights as an introductory tenant compared with secure tenants.

Statutory rightSecure tenantIntroductory tenant
Right to succession by partners or in some cases family membersyesyes
Right to repairyesyes
Right to assignyesno
Right to buyyesno, but period spent as an introductory tenant counts towards the discount
Right to take in lodgersyesno
Right to sub-let part of your homeyesno
Right to do improvementsyesno
Right to exchange your home with certain other tenantsyesno
Right to vote prior to transfer to new landlordyesno
Right to be consulted on housing management issuesyesyes
Right to be consulted on decision to delegate housing managementyesyes
Right to participate in housing management contract monitoringyesyes

Ending an introductory tenancy

At the end of the twelve months, provided there have been no possession proceedings against you, the introductory tenancy will usually be converted by your landlord to a secure tenancy. However, your landlord may decide to extend the introductory tenancy for a further six months. If this happens, you will be told the reasons for the decision and given the chance to ask for the decision to be reviewed.

Possession proceedings

It is very easy for a landlord to evict an introductory tenant.

If you have received a notice from the landlord stating that they intend to evict you and take possession of the property, you should immediately consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Flexible tenants

Flexible tenancies are a type of tenancy that can be granted by local authority landlords in England, from 1 April 2012. Not all local authorities offer them.

A flexible tenancy is similar to a local authority secure tenancy. However, a secure tenancy is periodic, which means that it lasts for an indefinite period of time. Periodic tenancies are often called ‘lifetime tenancies’. In contrast, a flexible tenancy lasts for a fixed period of time. In most cases, a flexible tenancy will last for at least five years.

A local authority has to serve a written notice on you before a flexible tenancy can start. The notice must tell you that the tenancy you're being offered is a flexible tenancy, and what the terms of the tenancy are.

Flexible tenants have a number of legal rights, many of which are similar to the rights of secure tenants. For example, the right to pass on your tenancy when you're alive or when you die, the right to exchange your home with certain other tenants, and the right to buy your home.

A local authority doesn't have to grant you another tenancy when the fixed term of the flexible tenancy comes to an end. You can ask the local authority to review its decision not to grant you another tenancy. The review will consider if your landlord has followed its policies and procedures when making that decision.

If you are not given another tenancy when your flexible tenancy comes to an end, the local authority will take action to evict you.

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Tenant involvement

The government has produced a leaflet on how social housing tenants can get involved with the work that their landlord does and as a result, make their neighbourhood a better place to live. It is available from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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Citizens Advice

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