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Introductory council tenancies

An introductory tenancy is a 12-month trial council tenancy. At the end of the trial period you will normally get a longer-term tenancy.

What is an introductory tenancy?

An introductory tenancy is a probationary tenancy that allows the council to decide if you are a good tenant.

Many councils use introductory tenancies for new tenants.

If your council uses introductory tenancies and you are made an offer from the housing register, it will be an introductory tenancy unless you are already a secure or assured tenant.   

Councils do not have to use introductory tenancies and some will give new tenants a secure tenancy or a flexible tenancy instead.

How long is the trial period?

You are an introductory tenant for 12 months from the date your tenancy started or the date you moved in, whichever is later.

Time spent as an introductory tenant or a housing association starter tenant in another property immediately before your current tenancy started counts towards your 12-month trial period.

What happens at the end of the trial period?

You automatically become a secure tenant or a flexible tenant after 12 months unless the council:

  • starts court proceedings to evict you during the 12-month period
  • extends your introductory tenancy for a further 6 months

Tenancy agreements

The council must tell you whether your tenancy will become secure or flexible after the trial period when they offer you the introductory tenancy.

The council will give you a written tenancy agreement. Keep your copy.

The agreement tells you the type of tenancy you have. It will also explain your rights and responsibilities.

Many councils will also give you a tenant's handbook which should explain all you need to know about your tenancy.

Eviction of introductory tenants

Introductory tenants can be evicted quite easily.

The council has to get a court order and follow the correct procedure but it doesn't have to prove a legal reason in court.

Rent and rent increases

Check your tenancy agreement to see how much the rent is and when it should be paid.

Rent increases usually happen in April. The council must give you at least 4 weeks' written notice of a rent increase.

From April 2016 councils must reduce the rent of most council tenants by 1% annually until April 2020.

If you have a low income you can claim housing benefit or universal credit to help pay your rent.

Responsibility for repairs

You are usually responsible for internal decoration and paying for any damage you cause.

The council is responsible for most other repairs, including any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, external doors and brickwork.

It must also make sure that your gas, electricity and plumbing are working safely.

Report any repair problems to the council immediately. It should have a 24-hour service for emergencies and proper procedures for carrying out any work involved.

Taking in a lodger or subletting

You don't have the right to take in a lodger or sublet your home if you are an introductory tenant.

You can be evicted very easily if you do either without permission from the council.

It is a criminal offence to rent out the whole of your home to someone else if you are a council tenant.

What happens to the tenancy if you die

If you are a joint tenant, the tenancy automatically passes to the other joint tenant if one of you dies.

If you are the only tenant, your tenancy can pass to your spouse or civil partner as long as they are living in your home at the time of your death.

If you're not married or in a civil partnership, an unmarried partner or another family member can take over the tenancy if you die, as long as they have lived with you for at least a year.

The legal process is called succession. It can only happen once unless your tenancy agreement allows a second succession.

The tenancy will continue as an introductory tenancy for the remainder of the 12-month trial period and will then become a secure tenancy or a flexible tenancy.

Passing on your tenancy in your lifetime 

You can sign your tenancy over to anyone who would have the right to succeed if you died. The legal process is called assignment.

The correct process must be followed or you could still be responsible for paying the rent and the new tenant could be evicted.

Moving home

If you want to move while your tenancy is still in its trial period, you may be able to get a transfer to another property owned by the council or a housing association.

Check the policy because some councils don't allow introductory tenants on to their transfer register.

If you need to move to a different council area because you work there or have been offered a job there, that council should allow you on to their housing register.

You can find a council's allocation and transfer policy on its website.

Use the search to find your local council website

Buying your council home

You can't buy your home if you are an introductory tenant. But time spent as an introductory tenant counts towards the 3-year qualifying period you need to buy your home at a discount under the right to buy scheme.

How to complain

Use the council's complaints procedure if you think the council isn't treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its responsibilities.

Need more advice?

Your rights are limited during an introductory tenancy. Speak to a housing adviser if you need more advice.

Call Shelter's free national housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444

Last updated 02 Oct 2014 | © Shelter

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