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Introductory tenancies

This content applies to England

Types of occupation that can be introductory tenancies, how long they last, which tenancies cannot be introductory, and the rights introductory tenants have and do not have.

Definition of an introductory tenancy

Introductory tenancies were created by the Housing Act 1996.

An introductory tenancy is a probationary or trial tenancy granted to a new tenant that allows the local authority landlord or housing action trust to decide if they are a suitable tenant. They were intended to give local authorities more power to deal with antisocial behaviour. In practice, however, they have had a much wider application, for example as a way of dealing with rent arrears.

Local authorities and housing action trusts can elect to have an introductory tenancy scheme. They can revoke the scheme at any time.[1]

The introductory tenancy scheme has been held to be compatible with Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.[2]

Occupation types that can be introductory tenancies

If a local authority or housing action trust adopts an introductory tenancy scheme, it must apply the scheme to all new tenancies of its housing stock, unless the tenant was a secure tenant or an assured tenant of a private registered provider of social housing immediately before.[3]

The introductory regime provisions also apply to new licences granted to occupy dwelling houses. However, the provisions do not apply to temporary licences granted to squatters, or to any other licence that could not be a secure licence.

Length of trial period for an introductory tenancy

An introductory tenancy runs for 12 months from the date it was entered into or the date on which the tenant had the right to move in (whichever is earlier). This is called the trial period.[5]

Time spent as an introductory tenant, or as an assured shorthold tenant of a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH), immediately before the grant of the introductory tenancy, counts towards the trial period.[6] In the case of a joint introductory tenancy, the trial period ends as soon as any one of the joint tenants has completed the 12-month trial period.[7]

Once the trial period is up, the tenancy becomes a secure tenancy or flexible tenancy, provided the landlord has not taken possession action or extended the trial period.

If the tenant is to become a flexible tenant the landlord must have notified them in writing before they became an introductory tenant that on expiry of the trial period they will become a flexible tenancy on a fixed-term of at least two years. The landlord must also have notified the tenant of the express terms of the flexible tenancy.[8]

Extending trial period for an introductory tenancy

The trial period can be extended by six months provided the landlord has served a notice at least eight weeks before the expiry date of the trial period, and the tenant has not requested a review or, if they have requested a review, the decision on review was to confirm the landlord's decision to extend the trial period.[9]

Notice to extend trial period

Any notice of extension must state the:[10]

  • landlord's reasons for the extension
  • tenant has the right to ask for a review
  • review must be sought within 14 days of the notice of extension being served[11]

Review of decision to extend trial period

A tenant has the right to ask for a review of the landlord's decision to extend the trial period.[12]

The review should be carried out, and the tenant notified of the decision, before the end of the original 12-month trial period. The tenant must submit their request for a review within 14 days of the notice of extension being served. If they want to have an oral hearing, they must also inform the landlord of these wishes within the same period.

The landlord must give the tenant at least 10 clear days' notice of the date of the review, and the time and place of any oral hearing. The review should be carried out by a person who was not involved in the decision to extend the trial period.

Any written representations from the tenant must be received by the landlord at least two clear days before the date of the review.

If the tenant has requested an oral hearing, they have the right to be heard and to be accompanied or to be represented by another person and to call any person to give evidence, and ask them any questions.

If the tenant and/or their representative fails to attend an oral hearing, the review may proceed. If a postponement of the review is requested, the landlord may grant or refuse the request as they see fit. The landlord must give reasonable notice of the details of a reconvened hearing.

Once the review has been concluded, the landlord should inform the tenant of the decision. If the decision is to extend the trial period, it should give reasons for the decision.

The Court of Appeal has held that the review procedure for introductory tenancies is compatible with Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal) as the procedure coupled with the availability of judicial review was an adequate safeguard.[13]

Tenancies that cannot be introductory

Introductory tenancies may only be granted by local authority landlords and housing action trusts.

Tenancies that cannot be secure

The circumstances under which a tenancy cannot be secure also apply to introductory tenancies.

Tenancies granted to secure or assured tenants

Some tenancies become secure (or flexible) from the outset, even where an introductory tenancy scheme is in operation.

These are tenancies granted (solely or jointly) to someone who, immediately beforehand, was either a secure or flexible tenant of any local authority or housing action trust, or an assured tenant (but not an assured shorthold tenant) of a private registered provider of social housing.[14]

Tenancies that cease to be introductory during the trial period

There are situations where the tenancy can cease to be introductory during the trial period:[15]

  • a possession order is enforced or the possession proceedings are dismissed
  • the property is transferred to a landlord that is not a local authority or housing action trust
  • the local authority or housing action trust decides to stop granting introductory tenancies
  • the tenant dies and there is no one entitled to succeed to the tenancy
  • there is a change in circumstances that would otherwise make the tenancy non-secure

A change in circumstances could be that the tenant ceases to live in the property as their only or principal home or has sublet the whole of the property[16]

Introductory tenants right to repairs

Landlords of introductory tenants have the repairing obligations contained within section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, specifically that it must keep the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house in good repair, and keep the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water in good repair and proper working order .

If the local authority does not do certain minor repairs for then the tenant could receive compensation under the right to repair scheme.[17]

Introductory tenants and succession

An introductory tenancy can pass to the spouse or a member of the tenant's family on the tenant's death, where certain conditions are met. There can only be one succession unless the tenancy agreement allows otherwise.

Introductory tenants right to information

Local authorities and housing action trusts with introductory tenants must publish information about the terms of their introductory tenancies, the landlord's repairing obligations and other provisions.

A copy of the terms of introductory tenancies must be given to each tenant as soon as possible after the grant of an introductory tenancy.[18]

Introductory tenants right to be consulted

Local authorities and housing action trusts must consult and take into account introductory tenants' views on housing management issues.[19]

County court jurisdiction

The county court has the jurisdiction to determine questions arising about introductory tenants and their rights, and to deal with possession proceedings and other claims in connection with introductory tenancies.[20]

Rights not available to introductory tenants

Introductory tenants have some rights in common with secure tenants, but some secure tenancy rights are denied to introductory tenants.

Right to assign

Assignment is the transfer of an interest in a property, including a tenancy, to another person. 

The general rule is that introductory tenancies cannot be assigned except :

  • under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973[21]
  • under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984[22]
  • under the Children Act 1989[23]
  • to a member of the tenant's family who would be entitled to succeed

Right to buy

Introductory tenants do not have the right to buy, but time spent as an introductory tenant will count towards the qualifying period for the right to buy discount.

Right to sublet or take in a lodger

Introductory tenants do not have the right to sublet any part of their property or to take in lodgers but they can apply to the landlord for permission to do so. Subletting the whole of the property is not allowed and is also a criminal offence.

Right to improve

Introductory tenants do not have the right to improve the property, but they can apply to the landlord for permission to do so. However, if an introductory tenant makes improvements and then moves out before theirs trial period has ended, they cannot apply for compensation under the statutory compensation for improvements scheme.

Right to exchange

Introductory tenants have no statutory right to a mutual exchange. However, landlords may agree to grant new tenancies to those wishing to exchange.

Tenant ends an introductory tenancy

A valid notice to quit by the tenant ends an introductory tenancy.

Tenant's notice to quit

A valid notice to quit (NTQ) by the tenant ends the tenancy.

An NTQ must expire on the first or last day of a period of the tenancy and be equal to the length of the period of the tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement expressly allows otherwise. The notice must also be in writing and of no less than 28 days.[24]

Where there is a joint tenancy, only one of the tenants needs to give notice for it to be binding on all the joint tenants.[25]

For more information about the requirements for a valid NTQ see Notices to quit: Tenants.

Surrender

A tenancy can also be ended by surrender, a voluntary agreement between the landlord and tenant that the tenancy has come to an end.[26]

[1] s.124 Housing Act 1996.

[2] McLellan v Bracknell Forest DC, Reigate and Banstead BC v Benfield and Forrest [2001] EWCA Civ 1510.

[3] s.124(2) Housing Act 1996.

[4] s.126(2) Housing Act 1996.

[5] s.125(1) Housing Act 1996.

[6] s.125(3) Housing Act 1996.

[7] s.125(4) Housing Act 1996.

[8] s.137A Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.155 Localism Act 2011.

[9] s.125A Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.179 Housing Act 2004; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.3) (England) Order 2005 SI 2005/1451; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.2) (Wales) Order 2005 SI 2005/3237 (W.242).

[10] s.125A(4)-(5) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.179 Housing Act 2004; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.3) (England) Order 2005 SI 2005/1451; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.2) (Wales) Order 2005 SI 2005/3237 (W.242).

[11] s.125B Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.179 Housing Act 2004; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.3) (England) Order 2005 SI 2005 No. 1451; Housing Act 2004 (Commencement No.2) (Wales) Order 2005 SI 2005/3237 (W.242).

[12] s.125B Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.179 Housing Act 2004; Introductory Tenancies (Review of Decisions to Extend a Trial Period) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1077; Introductory Tenancies (Review of Decisions to Extend a Trial Period) (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/2983.

[13] McLellan v Bracknell Forest [2001] EWCA Civ 510; see also R (on the application of Gilboy) v Liverpool CC and Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government [2008] EWCA Civ 751.

[14] s.124(2) Housing Act 1996.

[15] ss.125(5) and 130(2) Housing Act 1996.

[16] s.81 Housing Act 1985 and s.125(5)(a) Housing Act 1996.

[17] s.96 Housing Act 1985,s.135 Housing Act 1996 and Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations SI 1994/133, as amended by Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) (Amendment) Regulations SI 1994/844 and Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) (Amendment) Regulations SI 1997/73.

[18] s.136 Housing Act 1996.

[19] s.137 Housing Act 1996.

[20] s.138 Housing Act 1996.

[21] s.24 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

[22] s.17(1) Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

[23] Sch.1 Children Act 1989.

[24] s.5 Protection From Eviction Act 1977.

[25] Hounslow LBC v Pilling [1994] 1 All ER 432.

[26] Artworld Financial Corporation v Safaryan and others [2009] EWCA Civ 303; Belcourt Estates Ltd v Adesina [2005] EWCA Civ 208; Leek and Moorlands Building Society [1952] 2 All ER 492, CA.

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