Secure council tenancies

Most council tenants are secure tenants. Secure tenants have strong rights and can only be evicted in certain situations.

What is a secure tenancy?

Most council tenants are secure tenants.

A secure tenancy is a lifetime tenancy and you can only be evicted in certain situations.

Some council tenants have a fixed-term tenancy called a flexible tenancy and the council may be able to end your tenancy when the fixed-term expires.

You won't be a secure tenant if:

Written tenancy agreements

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

Your agreement explains your rights and responsibilities. It will also tell you the type of tenancy you have.

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

Eviction of secure tenants

You have the right to live in your home as long as you don't break the rules of your tenancy.

You can be evicted if you:

  • don't pay the rent
  • cause nuisance to neighbours
  • use the property for illegal activities such as drug dealing
  • move out of your home or rent it to someone else

The council must get a court order and follow the correct eviction procedure.

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. 

Making home improvements

You must have written permission from the council if you want to make improvements to your home.

The council can't refuse certain improvements without a good reason.

Taking in a lodger 

You have the right to take in a lodger.

A lodger rents a room in your home. You don't need the council's permission but your tenancy agreement may say that you must tell the council.

Taking in a lodger or subtenant can affect how much housing benefit or universal credit you receive if you claim benefits.

Subletting your home

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

You will lose your secure status permanently if you move out and sublet your home, even if you later move back in. The council could end your tenancy very easily and anyone living there will be evicted.

If you need to spend time living elsewhere but plan to return, get advice before you move out.

Ending your tenancy

If you want to end your tenancy you must give the council at least 28 days' notice in writing. Your notice must end on the first or last day of your rental period, unless your tenancy agreement says different. 

The council might accept a shorter notice period but they don't have to. If the council agrees that your tenancy can end early, get their agreement in writing. 

Ask your council if they have an example of a tenant's notice that you can use.

Consider your options before giving notice. If you give up a secure council tenancy it might be difficult to get another one.

Passing on your secure tenancy

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, there are rules about who the tenancy will pass to if you die.

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

You can choose to sign your tenancy over during your lifetime, to someone who would inherit it 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 to a different council or housing association home you may be able to:

Buying your council home

If you have been a council tenant for at least three years, you can probably buy your home at a discount under the right to buy scheme.


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

Still need help?

Secure tenants have strong rights. Speak to a housing adviser if you need more advice:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Last updated 19 Apr 2017 | © Shelter

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