Can you inherit a council tenancy?

You can sometimes inherit a council tenancy from a partner or close relative who you live with.

First you need to check if the tenancy is a:

  • joint tenancy - in more than one name

  • sole tenancy - only one person named as a tenant on the agreement

Joint tenancies are passed on differently to when the tenancy is in one person's name.

Joint tenancies

The tenancy always passes to the other joint tenant named on the agreement.

You must live there to keep the tenancy.

If you don't live there when the other tenant dies, you must move back in to keep the tenancy.

For example, if your children live there and you want to keep it as the family home.

Only one person on the tenancy agreement

Most council tenancies can be passed on once when the tenant dies:

  • usually to a partner

  • sometimes to a close family member

The tenancy must be your main home when your partner or relative dies.

Inheriting a council tenancy in this way is sometimes called having 'succession rights'.

Passing on a tenancy more than once

Most council tenancies can only be passed on once.

This means if your partner or relative inherited the tenancy from someone else, it might not be possible to pass it on again when they die.

This includes where a joint tenancy became a sole tenancy when the other tenant died.

You may still be able to inherit the tenancy or get a new tenancy if the agreement or council's tenancy succession policy allows it.

Ask for copies of the agreement and the policy. Look for the words 'second succession' or 'discretionary succession' in these documents.

Married or civil partners

You need to show that it's your home when your partner dies.

The council usually ask you to:

  • fill in a form

  • show your marriage or civil partnership certificate

  • provide proof that it's your home, for example, bills or letters

Your succession rights take priority over anyone else who lives there.

Unmarried partners

Your rights depend on when the tenancy started.

This table shows the succession rules if you live with your partner and it's your main home.

Tenancy started on or after 1 April 2012Tenancy started before 1 April 2012
You have succession rights if you live with your partner at the time of their death.You have succession rights if you live with your partner for at least a year immediately before their death.
Your rights take priority over other people living in your home.Your rights do not take priority over other close relatives living in your home.

If it's an introductory tenancy, you must live with your partner for at least a year immediately before their death to have succession rights. Time living together at another address counts.

Close relatives

You might be able to inherit the tenancy if you live with a close family member.

The tenant must be your:

  • parent or grandparent

  • aunt or uncle

  • brother or sister

  • child, grandchild, niece or nephew

Step-relations, half-relation and in-laws also count.

The tenant's partner will usually inherit the tenancy if it's their home. The rights of married or civil partners, and sometimes unmarried partners, take priority over other relatives.

This table shows when you could inherit a secure tenancy if:

  • you're a close relative

  • the tenancy is your main home

  • there is no partner who can inherit the tenancy

Tenancy started on or after 1 April 2012Tenancy started before 1 April 2012
You have succession rights if the tenancy agreement says a close relative can succeed, and you meet the conditions in the agreement. You have succession rights if you live with your relative for at least a year immediately before their death.

Showing that you lived with the tenant

You may have to show that you lived with the tenant for at least a year if you have succession rights and you're:

  • a close relative

  • an unmarried partner and the secure tenancy started before 1 April 2012

The council will ask for proof that you live there. For example, bank statements, bills or letters with your address on them.

If you give up another home to move in with an unmarried partner or close relative, make sure you tell the council about your change of address so it's clear when you moved in.

If more than one person has succession rights

Married or civil partners of the tenant always take priority over other relatives.

Unmarried partners also take priority if it’s a secure tenancy starting on or after 1 April 2012.

If neither of these situations apply, you can decide as a family who should get the tenancy.

If you can’t agree, the council can choose the tenant.

Only one person can inherit the tenancy even if more than one person has succession rights.

Can you be asked to move?

The council might offer a smaller property if the tenancy has more bedrooms than you need.

You can't be forced to move if you have inherited from a married or civil partner. It will be your choice to downsize.

Unmarried partners and close relatives

Unmarried partners who inherit a secure tenancy that started on or after 1 April 2012 can't be forced to move or downsize.

The council could take court action to get the property back if it has more bedrooms than need and you are:

  • a close relative of the original tenant

  • an unmarried partner who has inherited a tenancy that started before 1 April 2012

The council must offer another suitable tenancy with similar rights that meets your needs.

For example, another secure council tenancy or a housing association assured tenancy.

Court action

The council must give you notice if they decide to take court action. They can only give notice for this reason 6 to 12 months after they become aware of your relative’s death.

The court will only end your tenancy if both:

  • the judge thinks it’s reasonable for you to move

  • a suitable council or housing association home is available

If you cannot inherit the tenancy

The council can take steps to get the property back if no one can inherit the secure tenancy. For example, if it's already been passed on once under the rules.

You won’t have to leave immediately.

The council must give you at least 4 weeks' notice. They should take account of your bereavement and may give you more time before giving a legal notice to quit.

The council must apply to court if you don’t leave at the end of the notice period.

The court won't usually be able to stop or delay the eviction unless you can show evidence of a right to succeed to the tenancy.

You may have to leave sooner if someone else inherits the tenancy and asks you to leave.

Ask the council for homeless help if you can't stay in your home.


Last updated: 16 December 2021

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

Get help