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Assignment of assured and assured shorthold tenancies

Assignment of assured, assured shorthold, PRPSH demoted tenancies, and some agricultural tenancies depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement.

This content applies to England

Right to assign of assured tenants

Whether an assured or assured shorthold tenancy can be assigned depends on what is contained in the tenancy agreement.

The position regarding permission and consent is different from other tenancies.

Agricultural occupiers who are fully protected by the Housing Act 1988 have the same rights of assignment as assured tenants. Find out more about assured agricultural occupiers.

Periodic assured and assured shorthold tenants

The position depends upon what the tenancy agreement says about assignment. Periodic assured and assured shorthold tenants whose tenancy agreement says nothing about assignment cannot assign their tenancies unless their landlord consents.[1] In this case, landlords may withhold consent for any reason, whether reasonable or not.[2]

A tenant who assigns the tenancy without consent leaves the assignee in a vulnerable position as this is a breach of a term of the tenancy and is a discretionary ground for possession.[3] The exception to this is where a premium has been paid for the grant of tenancy, for example a tenancy deposit that is greater than one-sixth of the annual rent is a premium.

Otherwise, where the tenancy agreement:

  • allows assignment freely and without consent, assignment is allowed

  • expressly makes provision for the tenant to assign with the landlord's consent, the tenant will be able to assign with consent and such consent cannot be unreasonably withheld

  • forbids assignment, an assignment would be a breach of the tenancy agreement and could be subject to possession action

Fixed-term tenants

The rights of assured and assured shorthold tenants with fixed-term tenancies to assign their tenancies are governed by their tenancy agreements.

Housing association tenants

The rules on assignment above apply equally to assured and assured shorthold tenants of private registered providers of social housing (PRPSH). The rules for PRPSH demoted tenancies are the same as for periodic assured and assured shorthold tenancies, that is, generally only with the landlord's consent.

Mutual exchange

In addition, tenants of a PRPSH (or of a housing trust that is a charity) can mutually exchange with other social tenants.

Mutual exchange –  assignment of tenancy

A secure tenant has the right to mutually exchange their tenancy by way of assignment to a fully assured tenant.[4] For more information see Secure tenancies and flexible tenancies.

Mutual exchange – transfer of tenancy

There is a statutory right to mutually exchange under the procedure introduced in section 158 of the Localism Act on 1 April 2012, where at least one of the tenancies is a periodic secure or assured tenancy which existed prior to 1 April 2012. 

The right only applies where one of the following applies:[5]

  • assured shorthold tenant exchanges with a secure tenant

  • assured tenant exchanges with flexible tenant

  • assured tenant exchanges with assured shorthold tenant

In these cases, the exchange is not done by way of assignment. Instead, each tenant's tenancy is brought to an end and a new tenancy is granted for their new property. Each tenant retains their existing status (where the landlord condition for creating that type of tenancy allows it).

Each tenant wishing to exchange must make a request in writing to their own landlord. The landlord can only refuse consent on limited grounds.[6] Exchanges can take place between two or more tenants if each landlord consents.

An assured shorthold tenant cannot rely on the right in section 158 of the Localism Act to exchange their tenancy in accordance with that section if:[7]

  • their tenancy is for a fixed term of less than two years

  • their tenancy is periodic

  • the rent payable under their tenancy is affordable rent, Intermediate rent, Mortgage Rescue rent or shared ownership rent

In these cases a mutual exchange may only take place if each landlord gives permission, for example through a contractual term in the tenancy agreement.

For more detailed information see Secure tenancies and flexible tenancies.

Planning restrictions

An assured tenant could be refused permission for a mutual exchange by their landlord if the exchange would lead to a breach of a Section 106 planning agreement.

Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local authority to place legally binding obligations on a developer when it approves applications for planning permission. These restrictions will be binding on the owner of the property, unless the local authority agrees not to enforce a breach or to waive restrictions.

Planning obligations run with the land and will bind successive owners.[8] Breaches of a Section 106 agreement can be enforced by injunction.[9]

A Section 106 agreement can govern how a property is let, sold or otherwise disposed of.[10] The exact requirements of a Section 106 agreement will depend on the anticipated impact of the development and local needs.

A Section 106 agreement can be used to set additional restrictions on how a social housing property is let based on factors such as local connection or affordability. A landlord could refuse permission if a proposed mutual exchange breaches these restrictions.[11]

Last updated: 8 September 2022


  • [1]

    s.15(1) Housing Act 1988.

  • [2]

    s.15(2) Housing Act 1988.

  • [3]

    Ground 12, Sch.2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [4]

    s.92 Housing Act 1985.

  • [5]

    s.158 Localism Act 2011.

  • [6]

    s.159 Localism Act 2011.

  • [7]

    reg.3 Transfer of Tenancies and Right to Acquire (Exclusion) Regulations 2012 SI 2012/696; see also para 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum to those regulations.

  • [8]

    s.106(3) Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

  • [9]

    s.106(5) Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

  • [10]

    s.106(1) Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

  • [11]

    ground 8, Sch.3 Housing Act 1985.