Rights of secure tenants

Statutory rights of secure tenants around assignment and succession, subletting, exchange or management of the property.

This content applies to England

Flexible tenancies

The information on the statutory rights of secure tenants applies equally to tenants with flexible tenancies, unless advised otherwise.

Lodgers and subletting

A secure tenant has the right to take in a lodger.[1] They do not need the landlord's consent.

A secure tenant can sublet part of the home with the landlord's written consent.[2] The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent. Consent can be given retrospectively.[3]

A secure tenant cannot sublet the whole of the home; if they do, their secure status ends and cannot be regained. It is also a criminal offence. See Social housing fraud for more details on this and unlawful profit orders.

Right to exchange

Secure tenants can exchange their homes with other secure tenants or with assured tenants of a private registered provider of social housing or of a housing trust that is a charity.[4] If a secure tenant exchanges with an assured tenant, the former becomes an assured tenant and the latter becomes a secure tenant.

Exchanges are affected by a formal document called a deed of assignment.

A flexible tenant can exchange their home with a secure tenant or an assured tenant of a private registered provider of social housing or of a housing trust that is a charity.[5]

The rules governing consent from the landlord are broadly similar to the above, however the swap is not affected by way of assignment; as such an existing flexible tenant who exchanges will get a new flexible tenancy of their new home.

These are often called mutual exchanges. Each tenant exchanging must get the permission of their landlord, but the landlord can only refuse permission on specified grounds. For more information on the rules see Assignment: Secure and flexible tenancies.

Some local authorities operate mutual exchange schemes to help tenants find someone to exchange homes with.

See Gov.uk: Swap your council or housing association home for more information on exchanging tenancies.

Right to repair scheme and improvements

When a local authority does not carry out a 'qualifying repair' within a certain time limit, under the right to repair scheme the tenant may by able to make the local authority appoint a new contractor, and/or be paid compensation.[6] To be a 'qualifying' repair the landlord must decide that it will cost less than £250. There are other qualifying conditions.

A secure tenant must not carry out any improvements without the written consent of the landlord, however consent must not be unreasonably withheld and if it unreasonably withheld it is to be treated as given. A secure tenant of a local authority may have the right to be compensated for improvements that they carry out to their property. The compensation is only paid for certain types of improvement and can only be claimed at the end of the tenancy.[7] A flexible tenant does not have any right to carry out improvements or to receive compensation for improvements made.[8]

Right to information

Local authorities must publish information for tenants about the terms of their tenancies, the right to buy and repairing obligations, and must provide written tenancy agreements.[9]

Right to be consulted

Local authorities must consult and take into account tenants' views on matters of housing management.[10] Housing management includes the maintenance, improvement or demolition of council properties held under secure tenancies, and services provided to council tenants. It does not include rent or service charges.

A local authority landlord must publish details of how (and on what) it will consult. It must make a copy of the consultation details available free of charge at its offices, and provide copies on demand (for which it may charge). Tenants must be allowed to make their views known to the authority within a specified period and the authority must consider any representations made to it under the consultation.

Right to buy/rent to mortgage

Tenants have a right to buy their property[11] as long as they meet the necessary criteria.

Right to manage

Secure tenants have the right to set up a Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) in order to manage their properties.[12]

Local authorities and TMOs must have regard to statutory guidance on the right to manage.[13]

Right to assign

Assignment is the transfer of an interest in a property (for example, a tenancy) to another person. The general rule is that secure tenancies cannot be assigned except in three situations:[14]

  • assignment by way of exchange

  • assignment following court orders in some relationship breakdown cases

  • assignment to a member of the tenant's family who would be a successor

The unauthorised assignment of secure tenancies is a criminal offence (see Social housing fraud for more on this and unlawful profits orders).

Right to succeed

Succession is where a tenancy is transferred on the death of the tenant. There can be only one statutory succession to a secure tenancy and certain conditions must be met.[15] Where there is a joint tenancy and one of the tenants dies, the remaining tenant(s) will succeed and there cannot be a further succession.[16]

Last updated: 16 March 2021


  • [1]

    s.93(1)(a) Housing Act 1985.

  • [2]

    s.93(1)(b) Housing Act 1985.

  • [3]

    s.94(4) Housing Act 1985.

  • [4]

    s.92 Housing Act 1985.

  • [5]

    s.158 Localism Act 2011.

  • [6]

    s.96 Housing Act 1985; Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994 SI 1994/133.

  • [7]

    s.97 and s.99A Housing Act 1985; Secure Tenants of Local Authorities (Compensation for Improvements) Regulations 1994 SI 1994/613.

  • [8]

    s.155(3) and (4) Localism Act 2011.

  • [9]

    s.104 Housing Act 1985.

  • [10]

    s.105 Housing Act 1985; Bokrosova v Lambeth LBC [2015] EWHC 3386 (Admin).

  • [11]

    s.118 Housing Act 1985.

  • [12]

    s.27AB Housing Act 1985; Housing (Right to Manage) Regulations 1994 SI 1994/627; Housing (Right to Manage) (England) Regulations 2012 SI 2012/1821.

  • [13]

    reg.4(3)(b) Housing (Right to Manage) (England) Regulations 2012 SI 2012/1821.

  • [14]

    s.91(3) Housing Act 1985.

  • [15]

    see ss.86A and 87 Housing Act 1985, as amended by s.160 Localism Act 2011 with effect from 1 April 2012.

  • [16]

    s.88(1)(b) Housing Act 1985.