Assigning a tenancy

Assignment means legally transferring a tenancy from one person to another.

How assignment works

You can sometimes assign or 'sign over' a council or housing association tenancy if you want to:

  • transfer your tenancy to a partner or family member who lives with you
  • swap homes with another council or housing association tenant  

If you want to swap homes find out about 'mutual exchange' rules

If you want to assign your tenancy to a partner or family member, you must:

  • check you have the right to assign to them
  • provide evidence that they live with you
  • complete a 'deed of assignment'

If you don't follow the correct steps, the person you assign to could be at risk of eviction

What happens when a tenancy is assigned

All tenancy rights and responsibilities pass from the original tenant to the new tenant.

You lose your rights as a tenant if you continue to live in the property. Your legal status will be an excluded occupier.

Get advice before assigning your tenancy if you want to stay in your home

Keep the deed of assignment

Your tenancy is transferred using a legal document that has been signed 'as a deed'.

The deed must give the names and addresses of the:

  • original tenant
  • new tenant
  • landlord

An independent person must witness the signatures of the original and the new tenant.

The new tenant should keep the deed of assignment, in case they ever need to prove that the assignment has taken place.

The original tenant and the landlord should also keep a copy.

Council tenancies: assigning to a partner or family member

You can assign your tenancy to someone who would inherit the tenancy if you died. Who this is depends on when your tenancy started.

You can't assign a council tenancy in this way if:

  • it's a joint tenancy
  • your tenancy has been demoted
  • you're living in temporary accommodation

In most cases, you can't assign your tenancy if you inherited it from someone else.

Secure tenancies starting on or after 1 April 2012

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

The property must be their main home.

If you don't live with a partner, you may be able to assign your tenancy to someone else who lives with you but only if your tenancy 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 don't live with a married or civil partner, you can assign to any of the following family members, but only if the person has lived with you for at least 1 year:

  • an unmarried partner
  • an adult child or grandchild
  • a parent or grandparent
  • a brother or sister
  • an uncle, aunt, niece or nephew

Introductory tenancies

The rules for introductory tenancies are the same as for secure tenancies starting before 1 April 2012.

Housing association tenancies: assigning to a partner or family member

Your rights to assign depend on your tenancy agreement. 

You can't usually assign a starter tenancy or demoted tenancy.

Assured and assured shorthold tenancies

Most agreements say you need the housing association's permission to assign. 

With an assured periodic tenancy - a 'lifetime tenancy' - you must get permission even if it's not mentioned in your agreement. 

If your agreement says you need permission to assign, the housing association can only refuse for a good reason. For example:

  • you have rent arrears
  • eviction proceedings have started against you
  • the property is adapted for a disabled person and there would no longer be a disabled person living there

Secure tenancies

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

If you don't live with a married or civil partner, you can assign to any of the following family members, but only if the person has lived with you for at least 1 year:

  • an unmarried partner
  • an adult child or grandchild
  • a parent or grandparent
  • a brother or sister
  • an uncle, aunt, niece or nephew

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person


Last updated 30 Apr 2019 | © 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.

Was this advice helpful?

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

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