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Can you inherit a council tenancy?

Partners and relatives have different rights when it comes to inheriting a council tenancy.

Succession rights when a council tenant dies

The right for someone to inherit a tenancy when the tenant dies is known as succession.

A council tenancy can only be inherited once, unless the tenancy agreement allows for more than one succession.

Your right to inherit a council tenancy depends on:

  • your relationship with the tenant
  • the type of tenancy they had
  • when the tenancy started

If you inherit a tenancy, it will be the same type of tenancy as that of the person who died with the same rent and rights.

The council may ask you to provide evidence about who you are, your relationship with the tenant who died and how long you had lived with them.

The council can take action to evict you if you don't have a right to inherit the tenancy and continue to live in the property after the death of the tenant.

Get advice if the council tells you it's going to evict you following the death of a tenant.

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

Joint council tenants

You automatically become the sole tenant if you are a joint council tenant and the other joint tenant dies.

This takes priority over anyone else's claim to inherit the tenancy.

This applies whatever type of council tenancy you have.

Succession rights if you were married to a secure tenant

You can inherit a secure tenancy if the tenant who died was your husband, wife or civil partner, as long as it was your home at the time they died.

Your right to inherit takes priority over that of any of the tenant's relatives.

Succession rights if you were cohabiting with a secure tenant

Tenancies that started on or after 1 April 2012

You can inherit the tenancy as long as it was your home when your cohabitee died.

Tenancies that started before 1 April 2012

You can inherit the tenancy as long as it was your home at the time your cohabitee died and you were living together for at least 12 months before they died.

If you moved home in the year before the tenant died, time spent living with your cohabitee in another property counts.

Succession rights of relatives of a secure tenant

Tenancies that started on or after 1 April 2012

You can only inherit a relative's tenancy that started on or after 1 April 2012 if the tenancy agreement says this is allowed.

Tenancies that started before 1 April 2012

You can inherit a relative's tenancy that started before 1 April 2012 if:

  • the tenancy was your home when the tenant died
  • the tenant did not have a spouse or civil partner who can inherit the tenancy
  • you were living with tenant for at least 12 months before they died. Time spent living elsewhere counts.

Relatives who can inherit a council tenancy

These include:

  • parent or grandparent
  • child or grandchild
  • brother or sister
  • uncle, aunt, nephew or niece

Step-relations, half-relations and in-laws are also included, but not foster children.

Disputes about who can inherit the tenancy

The husband, wife or civil partner will always take priority over anyone else, unless it is a joint tenancy when the tenancy continues in the name of the other joint tenant.

If there is a choice between relatives, you can decide among yourselves who inherits the tenancy. Two or more of you cannot succeed together as joint tenants.

If you can't agree, the council decides for you.

If an inherited home is too large

You cannot be evicted for under-occupying a secure council tenancy if you inherited it as the tenant's husband, wife or registered civil partner.

The council can do this if you're a close relative or cohabitee, but it must provide alternative accommodation.

The council must give you notice to leave between 6 and 12 months after the tenant's death or the date it became aware of the tenant's death if this is later. You can't be evicted for under-occupation if the council gives you notice outside this period.

You will only be evicted if the council takes you to court and the judge agrees that:

  • it is reasonable to evict you
  • the alternative accommodation provided meets your needs

Succession rights if the council tenancy is not a secure tenancy

Your rights to inherit a flexible tenancy are the same as those for secure council tenancies that started on or after 1 April 2012.

Your rights to inherit an introductory tenancy are the same as those for secure council tenancies that started before 1 April 2012.

Husbands, wives, civil partners, cohabitees and close family members can inherit a tenancy demoted for antisocial behaviour if they lived with the tenant for at least 12 months before they died.

You have no right to inherit a family intervention tenancy or temporary accommodation granted after a homelessness application made by the person who died.

If you don't have the right to inherit the tenancy

The council can ask you to leave following the tenant’s death if you don't have the right to inherit the council tenancy you are living in.

The council must follow the legal procedure. You will be evicted if you don't leave.

In rare cases the council may decide to offer you a new tenancy if you were the tenant’s carer or a relative without the right to succeed. This could be in the same or a different property.

You may be able to get help from the council if you will be homeless.

Ending the tenancy after someone dies

If no one inherits a tenancy, make sure the correct procedure is followed to end it.

Get advice

An adviser also help you understand your succession rights.

Contact Shelter's free helpline on 0808 800 4444


Last updated 01 Nov 2016 | © Shelter


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