What is a secure tenancy?

What is a secure tenancy?

In the UK there are a number of different forms of tenancy for council housing, including:

  • Introductory tenancies
  • Secure tenancies
  • Flexible tenancies
  • Joint tenancies
  • Scottish secure tenancies

A secure tenancy is a form of social housing where the resident can live in the property for the rest of their life, as long as they don’t break the terms of the tenancy. Sometimes this includes the ability to rent out rooms, buy the flat through the right to buy scheme, make improvements or even swap your home with another council housing tenant. Of course, assuming the other person is willing.

Most council tenants will need to go through what’s called in introductory tenancy, which is usually 12 months, and is essentially a trial period.

In that period, you might be demoted from a secure tenancy if you don’t meet the responsibilities laid out in your tenancy agreement, which can include being taking part in antisocial behaviour. If that happens, the council should give you at least 4 weeks' notice, and should tell you why it’s suggesting a demotion. For a demotion to be enforced, typically the tenant and the council will need to go before the courts to get an impartial judgement on the situation.

Who is eligible for a secure tenancy?

Most council tenants are secure tenants, and secure tenancies are only available in the UK to council tenants. Instances where you typically wouldn’t be eligible for secure tenancy include:

  • You’re new and are offered an introductory tenancy for the first 12 months
  • You’re in temporary accommodation after a homeless application
  • Your tenancy has been demoted

Can rent be increased on a secure tenancy?

Generally, yes, rent increases can happen with secure tenancies, though as with any tenancy it depends on the tenancy agreement.

That being said, rent increases will usually happen in April, and typically the should council give at least 4 weeks' notice. If tenants need help with rent and are on a low income, they can look into claiming universal credit.

What is the Secure Tenancy Act of 1985?

The Housing Act of 1985 is a piece of legislation that lays out the definition of a secure tenancy in the United Kingdom, as well as the rights of secure tenants. It’s the current law in force and has been amended as recently as 2022.

What’s the difference between a secure tenancy and an assured tenancy?

A secure tenancy and an assured tenancy are similar concepts, with slightly different uses. An assured tenancy allows you to live in a housing association home for the rest of your life and includes further rights like the right to buy, some succession rights, and the right to organise essential repairs to your home through the housing association. A secure tenancy is a similar concept but for council estates.

The rights associated with an assured tenancy often include the ability to buy, management of repairs, and swapping homes. Usually the rights associated with an assured tenancy are slightly less all-encompassing than they are with a secured tenancy.

Housing associations have been required by law to offer assured or assured shorthold tenancies since the Housing Act of 1988 was applied in Jan 1989, where councils could still offer secured tenancies.

Can you inherit a secure tenancy?

Under certain circumstances, yes, you can inherit a secure tenancy. If the tenancy someone wishes to pass on was granted before 1 April 2012, it can only be passed on once. So, a child could inherit from a parent, but that child wouldn’t be able to pass it on to their children. One of the common conditions around passing on a secure tenancy is the person inheriting should have lived with the tenant in the property for at least 12 months.  

If the secure tenancy was granted after April 2012, it may be able to be transferred more than once — the tenancy agreement should have all those details. To pass on a secure tenancy there is also some paperwork you’ll need to fill out, usually in the form of a ‘request to assign tenancy’ form.

Can my partner live with me in my council house?

Generally, yes, someone can live with you if you're living in council housing, though it depends on the terms of your tenancy agreement. Generally, you’ll want to let your landlord know , particularly in the case of council housing as your benefits may be deducted if you have a contributing adult living with you.

Typically if a partner moves in with you and you’re paying your own rent you shouldn’t have to add the new tenant onto the tenancy agreement, or the Contents Insurance. In that instance, the person not named on the tenancy agreement or insurance wouldn’t have any legal rights to the property or recovery costs for their belongings.

For a tenant and their partner to have joint tenancy, typically they would need to have lived together for 12 months, be married or in a registered civil partnership. If you’re closely related, like brother and sister, and would like to be joint tenants, often the same 12-month requirement applies.

How do secure tenancies end?

For a secure tenancy, your tenancy doesn’t expire as long as you don’t break the rules of your agreement. A landlord can often only evict you with a court order.

As a tenant, you can also choose to end a secure tenancy, and usually should give the council 4 weeks notice in writing. A secure tenancy can also be ended or changed if:

  • The council needs to move you, like if they need to redevelop the property. They should offer you a new property with the same level of tenancy security
  • You transfer your tenancy or swap homes
  • If a relationship ends and it needs to be decided who keeps the tenancy - in this situation the tenancy might go to court

A few final tips…

A secure tenancy for council housing is pretty much what it sounds like, and often comes with a number of beneficial rights for the tenant. They often can be passed down through families fairly easily and are relatively difficult to end.

It’s typically difficult to be removed from the property, it can be renovated by the tenant with council approval when it’s needed, and it can be bought, assuming all the right conditions are met. Secure tenancies can provide a foothold in what might otherwise be unsteady ground for a number of folks.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.