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Rights of housing co-operative occupiers

This content applies to England

This page looks at the rights of occupiers of different types of housing co-operative.

Occupiers of housing co-operatives have different rights depending on the exact type of co-operative they are living in. Some of the rights arise from statute, while others are contractual.

Fully mutual associations

A tenant of a fully mutual association is usually an occupier with basic protection. A tenant of a fully mutual association is exempt from protection given by the main Acts governing security of tenure: Housing Act 1988, Housing Act 1985 and Rent Act 1977.[1] A challenge on human rights grounds to the exclusion of such tenants from security tenure was dismissed by the courts.[2]

Occupiers with basic protection

Occupiers with basic protection have:

The rights of fully mutual housing association tenants are further determined by whether they live in a par value co-operative or a co-ownership housing association (see below).

Exceptions to occupiers with basic protection status

There are three exceptions, namely when a tenant:

  • will be a secure tenant if the housing co-operative is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965, the tenancy was granted before 15 January 1989 and the association is not registered with the regulator of social housing as a private provider of social housing (PRPSH)[4]
  • could have the protection of the Rent Act 1977 if the fully mutual association is neither a PRPSH nor registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965.[5]
  • will be treated as having a tenancy for a term of 90 years. This is the case for a periodic tenancy when the agreement allows the landlord to end the tenancy only if the tenant fails to meet specified conditions, eg the failure to pay the rent (this is to be distinguished from an agreement which allows the landlord to terminate the agreement on notice without being required to show a reason, where the tenant will be an occupier with basic protection). A tenancy for a term of 90 years can only be ended by:[6]
    • the landlord serving a notice of forfeiture following a tenant's non-rent related breach of the agreement, or a notice that rent is due where the tenant owes rent
    • surrender
    • the tenant serving notice
    • the tenant's death

It should be noted that the High Court held that an agreement for an uncertain term that only allowed the landlord to end the tenancy if the tenant fails to meet specified conditions would be a contractual licence where the parties had not intended to create a tenancy for life (or 90 years).[7]

Par value co-operatives

In addition to the statutory rights of occupiers with basic protection outlined above, par value co-operative tenants can also expect:

  • a written tenancy agreement
  • 'reasonable' security of tenure. In most cases the housing co-operative would only take action to evict a tenant if s/he has broken a term of the tenancy agreement
  • to be treated fairly in regard to race/ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender reassignment, religion/belief, pregnancy or maternity. The housing co-operative should have a policy for dealing with discrimination and harassment
  • information about:
    • how the co-operative will deal with breaches of tenancy conditions and repossession
    • what services are provided
    • the policies and procedures for requiring members to move to alternative accommodation
    • the circumstances under which information about the tenant may be given to other organisations
    • details of the insurance cover provided by the co-operative and the tenant's own insurance responsibilities
    • service charges, rent policies and the rent collection rate of the housing co-operative
    • having people to stay and how the tenancy can be passed on
    • participation and consultation, and the complaints procedure
  • rights to repairs and improvements, and information about deadlines for repairs and possible compensation if these deadlines are not met.

These rights will usually be found in the tenancy agreement or other information provided by the housing co-operative. The rights originate from the social housing regulator's Regulatory framework for social housing in England.

For more information, see the page The Regulator of social housing.

Because a par value co-operative tenant does not have an assured tenancy, s/he is not able to have the rent determined by a rent assessment committee (RAC). The tenancy agreement should state the housing co-operative's procedures for changing the amount of rent that tenants need to pay. However, a tenant whose tenancy started before 15 January 1989 will have, or can apply for, a fair rent under the Rent Act 1977 (see the section on Fair rents for more information).[8] This is regardless of the fact that the tenant may not have a regulated tenancy.

All par value co-operative tenants, regardless of when the tenancy started, are entitled to claim housing benefit if they are eligible.

Co-ownership housing associations

Tenants of co-ownership housing associations are not entitled to apply for fair rents under the Rent Act 1977, even where the tenancy started before 15 January 1989; nor are they entitled to claim housing benefit.[9]

When a tenant leaves the co-ownership housing association s/he is entitled to a payment, called a premium payment, based upon how long s/he has been a tenant. In some co-ownership housing associations the tenant has the right to purchase the freehold as an alternative to the premium payment.

Short-life housing co-operatives

A member of a short-life housing co-operative, like a tenant of a fully mutual association, will usually be an occupier with basic protection. Although it is extremely unlikely, it is possible for an occupier to have a secure tenancy or protection under the Rent Act 1977. For more information about the rights of occupiers with basic protection see above under the Fully mutual associations heading.If the short-life housing co-operative itself has only been granted a licence of the property, then the occupiers may be licensees. Licensees would have:

  • the rights given by the terms of the contract
  • protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This means that the licensee is entitled to a court order before s/he can be evicted. If the tenancy is periodic it must be ended by a notice to quit in the prescribed form.

Tenant management organisations and management co-operatives

These tenants will still be tenants of the local authority or PRPSH (formerly known as RSL) and so will have the type of tenancy that these providers of social housing normally grants. This means that the tenants will either be secure tenants under the Housing Act 1985, or assured or assured shorthold tenants under the Housing Act 1988. For further information, please see the sections on Secure tenancies, Assured tenancies or Assured shorthold tenancies.


The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] para 12, Sch.1, Housing Act 1988; s.80 Housing Act 1985; s.16 Rent Act 1977.

[2] Southward Housing Co-Operative Ltd v Walker & Anor [2015] EWHC 1615 (Ch).

[3] s.5 Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

[4] s.80 Housing Act 1985 (prior to amendment by Housing Act 1988).

[5] s.15 Rent Act 1977.

[6] Berrisford v Mexfield Housing Co-operative Ltd [2011] UKSC 52.

[7] Southward Housing Co-Operative Ltd v Walker & Anor [2015] EWHC 1615 (Ch).

[8] s.86 Rent Act 1977.

[9] reg 10(2)(b) Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/1971.

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