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Assigning a council or housing association tenancy

Assignment means putting the tenancy into someone else's name.

It's a legal process. You have to sign a document called a 'deed of assignment'.

Speak to your landlord first. You usually need their written permission.

You can only sign your tenancy over in some situations.

For example, you might be able to:

  • swap homes with another tenant

  • change who the tenant is if you split up

  • pass on your tenancy before your death

There are different rules for secure and assured tenants.

The rules for secure tenancies also apply to fixed term flexible council tenancies.

Always check the rules for your tenancy type.

Swapping homes with another tenant

Most secure and assured tenants can swap homes with another tenant in social housing.

This is called a 'mutual exchange' and is often done by assignment.

You need to get your landlord's permission in writing before you swap.

Find out more about mutual exchanges.

Changing who the tenant is if you split up

This is sometimes possible.

The rules are different for assured and secure tenants.

Assured housing association tenants

You can sometimes use assignment to:

  • change a joint tenancy to a sole tenancy

  • sign a sole tenancy over to the person who still lives there

You need your landlord's permission even if it does not say this in your agreement.

With a sole tenancy you might have to assign the tenancy before you move out.

If you move out permanently, you can only assign a sole tenancy if your married or civil partner still lives there. You cannot do this if you're not married or have divorced.

Example: Assigning a housing association tenancy

You have a joint tenancy with your ex. They moved out when your relationship broke down.

You get the housing association's permission to assign the tenancy to you.

You then both sign a deed of assignment that makes you the new sole tenant.

Your tenancy rights and responsibilities stay the same.

Your ex's tenancy rights and responsibilities end.

Secure tenants

You can only change a joint tenancy to a sole tenancy if a court orders this, as part of divorce or family proceedings. There could be other ways to sort out a joint tenancy if you split up.

You could also assign your sole tenancy to your husband, wife or civil partner if they still live there. You cannot do this if you're not married or have divorced.

Example: Assigning a secure tenancy after a court order

You live in a council home with your children. The tenancy is in your husband's name.

Your husband has moved out and you are getting divorced.

You have agreed through family mediation that the tenancy should be transferred to you.

A family court makes a property adjustment order which says this.

You still need to get the council's written permission and complete a deed of assignment.

Passing on a tenancy before your death

Some secure and introductory tenants can assign to a partner or family member who would inherit the tenancy if you died.

You cannot do this with a joint tenancy.

In most cases, you cannot assign your tenancy if you inherited it from someone else.

Council home inheritancy rules depend on your tenancy type and when it started.

Secure tenancies starting on or after 1 April 2012

You can assign your tenancy to a partner who lives with you.

You can be married, civil partners or living together.

Your tenancy must be their main home.

Check your tenancy agreement if you do not live with a partner. You can only pass your tenancy to another family member if your agreement says you can.    

Secure tenancies starting before 1 April 2012

You can assign your tenancy to your husband, wife or civil partner if they live with you.

If you do not live with a married or civil partner, you can assign to a close relative who has lived with you for at least 1 year.

These family members count as close relatives:

  • a partner you live with but are not married or civil partner to

  • an adult child or grandchild

  • a parent or grandparent

  • a brother or sister

  • an uncle, aunt, niece or nephew

These rules also apply to:

How to assign your tenancy

You need to:

  • check your tenancy agreement

  • ask for permission if you need it

  • wait for your landlord's response

  • complete a deed of assignment

You need to do all these things to make sure the person you assign to can keep living there in the longer term.

You lose your tenancy rights if you assign

All rights and responsibilities pass from you to the new tenant.

You can be asked to leave by that person.

Ask for permission if you need it

You need permission to assign an assured housing association tenancy.

Write a letter or email to ask for permission. Include a copy of your tenancy agreement or the housing association policy.

Secure tenants do not need permission to assign to someone who could inherit the tenancy. But you should still speak to your landlord before you go ahead.

You always need your council or housing association's written permission to swap homes.

Find out when a landlord could refuse a mutual exchange.

Wait for a response

Your housing association should write back within a reasonable time. For example, 6 weeks.

They could say:

  • yes, and let you know if there are any other conditions

  • no, and give reasons for refusing the assignment

If your agreement says that you need consent, the housing association can only say no if they have a good reason. For example, serious rent arrears.

If your agreement does not mention assignment at all, you still need permission to assign. The housing association can refuse for any reason.

Do not assign your tenancy without permission. It breaks the tenancy agreement and the new tenant could be at risk of eviction.

Complete a deed of assignment

If you have permission to assign, you can complete the legal process.

Your tenancy is transferred by a document that must:

  • say it is a deed

  • be signed by you and the new tenant

  • include both your names and addresses

  • give the council or housing association's details

Your landlord might have a template deed of assignment that they want you to use.

Someone independent must:

  • watch you sign the deed

  • sign it themselves as a witness

This person cannot work for your landlord or be a member of your family. You could ask a friend or pay a solicitor.

You should keep a copy of the deed of assignment.

Last updated: 26 November 2023

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