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Secure council tenancies

What is a secure tenancy?

Most council tenants are secure tenants with strong rights. 

A secure tenancy is usually a lifetime tenancy. 

The council may offer you a fixed term tenancy called a flexible tenancy. This is  a type of secure tenancy that lasts for a specified period.

You will not be a secure tenant if you:

The council gives you a written tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement tells you the type of tenancy you have and explains your rights and responsibilities.

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

Rent and rent increases

Your tenancy agreement sets out 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.

If you have a low income and need help to pay the rent, you can claim universal credit.

Responsibility for repairs

You are usually responsible for internal decoration and paying for any damage you cause. 

The council's responsibility for repairs includes any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, external doors and brickwork.

They must also make sure that the gas, electricity and plumbing are working safely.

Home improvements

You must get written permission from the council if you want to make improvements to a council home.

The council cannot refuse certain improvements without a good reason.

Taking in a lodger 

You have the right to take in a lodger (someone who rents a room in your home). 

You do not need the council's permission, but you may have to tell the council if your tenancy agreement says you should.

It can affect how much housing benefit or universal credit you get if take in a lodger or subtenant.

Subletting your home

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

It's against the law to rent for council tenants to rent out the whole of your home.

Find out about unlawful subletting from Citizens Advice.

Ending your tenancy

You must give the council at least 28 days' notice in writing if you want to end your tenancy. Ask your council if they have an example of a tenant's notice that you can use.

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 do not have to. If the council agrees that your tenancy can end early, get their agreement in writing. 

Make sure you consider your options before you give up a council tenancy. It can be difficult to get another council tenancy.


You have the right to live in your home as long as you do not break the rules of your tenancy.  

You can only be evicted in certain situations.

You can be evicted if you:

  • do not 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 follow the eviction process for secure council tenants. They must get a court order for you to be evicted.

If a council tenant dies

If you are a joint tenant, the council tenancy automatically passes to the other joint tenant if one of you dies.

If you are the only tenant, there are rules about who can inherit the tenancy if you die. The legal process for this is called succession. It can only happen once unless your tenancy agreement allows for a second succession.

During your lifetime, you can choose to sign your tenancy over to someone who would inherit it if you died. The legal process for this is called assignment. The correct process must be followed. If it is not, you could still be held 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 council home at a discount under the right to buy scheme.


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

Last updated: 26 March 2023

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