This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at

Secure licences

This content applies to England

Secure licences and the rights of secure licensees.

Definition of a secure licence

The Housing Act 1985 extends 'secure' status to licences as well as tenancies, as long as all the hallmarks of a secure tenancy apply. A secure licensee is someone who is renting accommodation that is let as a separate dwelling under a licence, under which both the landlord and the tenant conditions are fulfilled, and that does not come under any of the exceptions to secure status (see Tenancies that cannot be secure). The full protection of a secure licence would not extend to a licence granted temporarily to a person who entered the premises as a trespasser.[1]

In practice, there are very few situations where a secure licence will be granted. Examples include licences granted to 16 and 17 year olds, or a hostel type arrangement where there is warden supervision but the occupier has exclusive occupation of a room.

It is important to note that a licence may be excluded from secure status either because it is introductory (see Introductory licences for more details) or because the occupier does not have exclusive occupation of a room, or because it is one of the exceptions listed in the section on secure tenancies.

Let as a separate dwelling

The courts have held that a licence can only have secure tenancy status if the occupier has exclusive possession. In one case, the occupier had been housed by the council under its duties to homeless people, and was given a licence of a hostel room. The terms of his licence stated that he was not entitled to a particular room and could be required to share with other occupants. Over a year later, his licence was terminated. The occupier argued that he had a licence which, under section 79(3) of the Housing Act 1985, gave him 'secure' status, and that this had not been terminated correctly. Possession was granted, despite a subsequent appeal, as the House of Lords ruled that a licence could not create a secure tenancy unless it gave exclusive possession.

The Lords took into account the fact that the council needed to retain possession of the rooms to meet its objective of providing temporary accommodation for homeless people. The Lords also stressed that this was a special case and would not allow landlords to opt out of the protective legislation by adapting the wording of licence agreements.[2]

The courts have consistently held that a licence cannot be secure where living accommodation (which can include a kitchen)[3] is shared with anyone who is not a member of the tenant's household or her/his lodger.

Rights of secure licensees

A secure licensee is entitled to the same security of tenure, succession rights, rights to exchange and rights to sublet as a secure tenant.[4] For information about these rights, see Rights of secure tenants.

Secure licensees do not have the right to buy, since only the provisions in Part 4 of the Housing Act 1985 extend to them.

A secure licence can only be ended by a possession order preceded by a notice in the correct form - for more details see Notices: Secure tenancies.

[1] s.79(4) Housing Act 1985.

[2] Westminster CC v Clarke (1992) 24 HLR 360 HL.

[3] Central YMCA HA Ltd v Saunders (1990) 23 HLR 212.

[4] Part 4 Housing Act 1985.

Back to top