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Tenancy agreements - changes and transfers

When you are allocated a council home, you should be asked to sign a tenancy agreement before moving in. This agreement is very important and should set out much of the detail of what the council and tenant agree to do while the tenancy is in operation. Find out how to request a change in your agreement.

The tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement should outline:

  • the council's obligations to tenants, like carrying out repairs
  • the tenant's obligations to the council, like the need to pay rent, and not to cause nuisance, harassment, or damage
  • other conditions relating to the tenancy, like the rules on keeping pets

If tenants break the conditions of their tenancy agreement, or allow others to do so, the council may take action against them. As a last resort, the council may seek to obtain an order for possession of the property from the court. If a possession order is granted, this could lead to a tenant being evicted from the property.

Joint tenancy responsibilities

You may want to share the responsibilities of your tenancy with someone who lives with you. However, you should think carefully before having a joint tenancy because each joint tenant is jointly responsible for all of a tenant's obligations under the Tenancy Agreement. For example, joint tenants are jointly responsible for the rent, and so if one tenant leaves, the remaining tenant will be responsible for any outstanding rent.

How to change your joint tenancy

If you are sure that you would like to have a joint tenancy, you should apply to your local council's housing department for their permission to change your tenancy. The council will consider your application and will let you know whether it agrees to grant a joint tenancy.

Alternatively, if you and another person are already joint tenants, it may be that you both agree that only one of you should be the tenant. For example, this may happen when a relationship comes to an end and one partner agrees to move out of the family home. In this case, you should inform the council that you want to make this change. Both joint tenants will need to confirm in writing that they agree to the change.

The following links will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more.

Joint tenancy and relationship breakdown

If, following a relationship breakdown, you can’t agree on who should stay in the home, you will need to seek legal advice. In this case you may need to get a court order to decide what happens to the tenancy.

If one of the joint tenants gives notice to the council to end the tenancy, this is likely to end the tenancy for both joint tenants. This would mean that the other joint tenant has no right to stay in the home. If this happens to you, contact your landlord and ask for a new tenancy.

Transferring your tenancy

If you are leaving to live somewhere else, you may want to transfer your tenancy to your partner or a member of your family who has lived with you continuously for at least a year. Such a transfer is known as an assignment.

In this case, you should apply to your local council's housing department to assign your tenancy. They will consider your application and give you their decision within an agreed period.

However, it is unlikely that the council will be able to agree to you assigning your tenancy if you yourself had been assigned the tenancy by the previous tenant.

Who qualifies to take over a tenancy

A person has the right to take over a tenancy (known as to 'succeed' to a tenancy) when a council tenant dies if he or she is either the tenant's spouse, civil partner or another family member and has been living with the tenant in that house continuously for at least 12 months. However, by law, there may only be one succession to a council tenancy. Therefore if the tenant who has died had already succeeded to the tenancy, the council would be unable to grant a further succession. Nevertheless, this does not prevent a council from granting a completely new tenancy if they choose to do so.

Where a tenant has a joint tenancy with his or her spouse or civil partner, he or she will become the sole tenant on the death of his or her spouse or civil partner. This is known as survivorship and is regarded as a succession. Therefore, no-one will be able to succeed to the tenancy when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies. Again, however, this does not prevent a council from granting a new tenancy if it chooses to do so.

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