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Housing association starter tenancies

A housing association can give you a starter tenancy for a 12-month trial period. They will then decide whether to give you a longer-term tenancy.

What is a starter tenancy?

Many housing associations give new tenants a starter tenancy running for 12 months. This is a trial period that allows the housing association to decide if you are a good tenant.

A starter tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy. This means it is quite straightforward to evict you at the end of your trial period.

What happens at the end of the trial period?

At the end of the 12 months, the housing association could:

  • give you a long-term tenancy
  • evict you
  • extend your trial period by 6 months, if it has not decided what to do yet

You usually automatically become a full assured tenant if the housing association decides you can stay on long term.

Some housing associations offer you an assured shorthold tenancy for a longer term instead, usually for 5 years.

If the housing association decides it wants to evict you, it will usually give you the chance to appeal this decision and to say why you should be allowed to stay. For example, you are now working longer hours and will be able to pay off any rent you owe.

Starter tenants can be easily evicted by obtaining a court order for possession. The housing association doesn't have to prove a legal reason to do this. If it has a legal reason – like serious antisocial behaviour – you could be evicted before the starter tenancy ends.

Written tenancy agreement

Your housing association will get you to sign a written tenancy agreement. Keep your copy.

This explains your rights and responsibilities. It will set out how long your tenancy lasts.

The conditions of your tenancy can't usually be changed without your written agreement.


You will have to pay your rent in advance. Your tenancy agreement will tell you if this is to be paid every week or month.

Your rent cannot be increased during the starter tenancy unless there is a clause in your tenancy agreement that says how and when it can be increased.

If you are on benefits or have a low income, you can claim housing benefit or universal credit to help you pay the rent. It may not cover all your rent.


The housing association is responsible for most repairs to your home, including any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, doors and brickwork.

The housing association must also make sure that the plumbing, gas and electricity are working safely.

Your tenancy agreement or tenant’s handbook often tells you about how long a particular type of repair takes to be fixed.

If your home needs repairs, report the problem to the housing association immediately.

You're usually responsible for minor repairs to internal decoration and paying for any damage you cause.

What happens to your tenancy if you die

If you have a joint tenancy, the starter tenancy automatically continues for the other joint tenant if you die.

Check your tenancy agreement to see if your tenancy will pass to your spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner in the event of your death. This legal process is called succession.

Passing on your tenancy in your lifetime

You can only transfer – or ‘assign’ – your tenancy to someone else if the housing association agrees.

Unless your tenancy agreement says something different, the housing association can refuse an assignment for any reason.

Transfers or exchanges

Starter tenants can't exchange homes with another tenant. You will have to check with the housing association if you can apply for a transfer.

Right to buy

Starter tenants do not have the right to buy their home.


Use your housing association's official complaints procedure if you feel you're not being treated fairly or has failed to fulfil its responsibilities.

Still need help?

Get advice if you still need help with a starter tenancy with a housing association.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local housing adviser

Last updated 02 Oct 2014 | © Shelter

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