Secure housing association tenancies

Secure tenants have strong rights compared to other housing association tenants.

Are you a secure tenant?

You are likely to be a secure tenant if your tenancy started before 15 January 1989.

However, there are some exceptions. For example if:

  • your tenancy has been demoted
  • you live in a hostel or supported housing run by a housing association
  • your property was transferred from the council to a housing association
  • you work for the housing association and your home comes with your job
  • you have changed housing association landlords following a mutual exchange (tenancy swap) after 15 January 1989
  • you are the tenant of a housing co-operative or a non-mutual housing association

If you moved into your current home after 15 January 1989 but had a secure tenancy in a different property owned by the same housing association before that date, you are probably still a secure tenant.

Written tenancy agreement

Your housing association must give you a written tenancy agreement explaining your rights and responsibilities.

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


As a secure tenant, you have the right to live in your home as long as you don't break the rules of your tenancy.

The housing association should only evict you as a last resort. They must have a legal reason and get a court order. In some cases it may have to offer you a suitable home elsewhere.

Rent and rent increases

All secure tenants of housing associations pay fair rents. There are rules about how and when the rent can be increased.

You may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay the rent if you receive benefits or have a low income.


You are usually responsible for repairs to internal decoration and fixing any damage you cause.

The housing association should take care of most other repairs, including any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, doors, plumbing and brickwork. It must also make sure that the gas and electricity appliances in your home are working safely.

Report the problem to the housing association immediately if your home needs repairs.

The housing association should consult you before beginning any major work. You may have to be rehoused.


You have the right to take in a lodger. You must get written permission from the housing association first.

The housing association can't refuse permission without a good reason, such as if your home would be overcrowded if someone else moved in.

If you claim benefits, the amount you get could be reduced.

Subletting your home

It is a criminal offence for housing association tenants to rent out the whole of their home to someone else. You can probably sublet part of your home (such as a bedroom).

Your tenancy could be ended very easily and anyone living there evicted.

Get advice if you need to spend time living elsewhere but plan to return.

What happens to your tenancy if you die

If you have a joint tenancy, the other joint tenant automatically takes over the tenancy if you die.

Another member of the family can inherit a secure tenancy if they have lived in the property for at least the past 12 months.

This process, called succession, can happen only once.

Passing on your tenancy in your lifetime

Passing on a tenancy during your lifetime is called assignment.

You can assign your tenancy to anyone who could take it on by succession.

Get advice before you do this as it is essential to follow the correct procedure.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice service near you

Moving home

If you want to move, you may be able to:

  • get a transfer to another property owned by your housing association or with a council tenant
  • exchange with someone who rents from the same housing association, a different housing association or a council - even if they are in another part of the country

Check if you'll have a different type of tenancy or fewer rights after the exchange.

Buying your home

You may qualify for the right to buy if:

  • you used to be a council tenant, and
  • your home was transferred from a local authority to a housing association and you have a preserved right to buy, and
  • your tenancy has not been demoted at any time

If you don't have the right to buy, you may be able to buy your home with the right to acquire or a home-ownership scheme.

Find out more on the Government Right to Buy website


Use the housing association's official complaints procedure if you feel that it isn't treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its responsibilities.

Last updated 28 May 2015 | © Shelter

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Was this advice helpful?

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact #########

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact