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Assigning a tenancy

Assignment is one of the ways a tenancy can be legally transferred from one person to another.

How assignment works

When a tenancy is assigned or 'signed over', all the rights and responsibilities of the tenancy pass from the original tenant to the new tenant.

Your right to assign your tenancy depends on the type of tenancy you have.

Check if you need the landlord's permission to sign over your tenancy.

If you don't follow the correct steps, any attempt to assign your tenancy won't be valid.

If an assignment isn't valid, the landlord can usually start eviction proceedings against anyone living in the property.

Rights after a tenancy is assigned

You lose all your rights as a tenant after you assign your tenancy to someone else.

In most cases, if you continue to live in the property, the person you assigned the tenancy to becomes your landlord. Your legal status is an excluded occupier.

Right to assign a council tenancy

After the tenant's death, most council tenancies can be passed to people the law says can succeed to (inherit) the tenancy. Only one succession is normally allowed.

You can assign (transfer) your tenancy to someone who is entitled to inherit your tenancy. You don't need your landlord's permission to do this.

Council tenancies starting before 1 April 2012

For council secure tenancies which started before 1 April 2012, you can assign your tenancy to your:

  • spouse or civil partner, as long as they are living with you
  • cohabiting partner or another member of your family (this includes children, parents, siblings and most other close relatives), as long that person has been living with you for at least one year

Council tenancies starting after 1 April 2012

For council secure or flexible tenancies which started on or after 1 April 2012 you can assign your tenancy to your spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner, as long as they are living with you.

Your tenancy agreement might allow your tenancy to be assigned to another family member. Check with your landlord.

Introductory tenants

Introductory tenants have the same right to assign their tenancy as a secure tenant whose tenancy began on or after 1 April 2012.

Council tenants with no right to assign

You can't assign a joint council tenancy to someone who could inherit your tenancy.

Demoted tenants and people living in temporary accommodation also do not have the right to assign their tenancy.

Right to assign a housing association tenancy

Assured and assured shorthold tenants

If you are an assured or assured shorthold housing association tenant, you can only assign your tenancy if the tenancy agreement allows it.

If your tenancy agreement doesn't say anything about assignment, you need written permission from the housing association.

Secure tenants

If you are a secure housing association tenant, you can assign your tenancy to your:

  • spouse or civil partner, as long as they are living with you
  • cohabiting partner or another member of your family (this includes children, parents, siblings and most other close relatives), as long that person has been living with you for at least one year

Housing association tenants with no right to assign

You don't have the right to assign if you have a joint tenancy, starter tenancy or demoted tenancy.

Housing association landlords may be willing to transfer a tenancy in other situations, depending on your circumstances and the reason for the transfer.

Landlord's permission for assignment

If you need your landlord's permission to assign your tenancy, your landlord cannot withhold permission unreasonably.

Your landlords can refuse to give permission if, for example:

  • you have rent arrears
  • they have started eviction proceedings against you
  • the property has been adapted for a person with disabilities and there would no longer be a person with those disabilities living there

Sign a deed of assignment

For an assignment to be legal the tenancy must be transferred using a deed of assignment. This is a legal document that has been signed 'as a deed'.

The deed must give the names and addresses of the original tenant, the new tenant and the landlord. An independent person must witness the signatures of the original and the new tenant.

The new tenant should keep the deed of assignment, in case they ever need to prove that the assignment has taken place. The original tenant and the landlord should also be given a copy.

When to consider assigning a tenancy

Assignment may be a good option if you want to move out, but someone in your family wants to continue living in your home.

If you are the tenant and you want to continue living in your home, assignment means you lose your tenancy rights.

Get advice before signing any agreement to make changes to your tenancy. An adviser can explain how the process works and how your rights are affected.

Contact Shelter's free helpline on 0808 800 4444

Other ways of transferring a tenancy

Assignment is not the only way to transfer a tenancy.

Other ways include:

  • mutual exchange – this allows most tenants to swap homes
  • tenancy transfer – when a council or housing association landlord allows a tenant to move to another of its properties
  • succession – this allows your partner, civil partner, cohabiting partner or sometimes family members to take on the tenancy if you die
  • court transfers – these can be made as part of divorce or separation proceedings

Use Shelter's directory to find face-to-face advice in your area


Last updated 01 Nov 2016 | © Shelter

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