Secure housing association tenancies

Secure tenants have relatively stronger rights than other housing association tenants, although most people that have secure tenancies have been renting their homes since before 1989.

How can I check if I am a secure housing association tenant?

If you live in self-contained housing association accommodation and your tenancy started before 15 January 1989, you are likely to be a secure tenant. However, there are some exceptions, including if:

  • your tenancy has been demoted because of antisocial behaviour
  • you live in a hostel or supported housing run by a housing association
  • your property was transferred from the council to a housing association via stock transfer
  • you work for the council and your home comes with your job
  • you have changed housing association following a mutual exchange after 15 January 1989
  • you are the tenant of a housing co-operative or a non-mutual housing association.

If you moved into your current home after 15 January 1989, but had a secure tenancy in a different property owned by the same association before that date, your tenancy is probably still secure.

Your tenancy agreement should tell you what kind of tenancy you have and explain your rights and responsibilities. The housing association can’t normally make changes to your tenancy agreement without your written consent.

Can I be evicted?

As a secure tenant, you have the right to live in your home as long as you don’t break the rules of your tenancy agreement. The housing association should only evict you as a last resort. They must have a legal reason (known as a ground) and get a court order. In some cases it may have to offer you a suitable home elsewhere. The most common reasons for eviction include:

  • not paying the rent
  • causing nuisance to neighbours
  • using the property for illegal activities
  • living in another property and/or subletting your home without the housing association’s permission.

If you are being taken to court by your housing association, or even have a date when the bailiffs are going to evict you, get in touch with an adviser immediately to find out whether the eviction can be stopped or delayed. An adviser can check whether there is any way you can put things right, such as claiming benefits or settling a neighbour dispute. An adviser may be able to help you put together the legal arguments you will need to form your defence, or advise you on what options you have if you do lose your home.

For more information, see our pages on eviction of housing association tenants.

What are the rules about rent and rent increases?

All secure tenants pay ‘fair rents’. There are rules about how and when the rent can be increased. Your tenancy agreement should include an explanation on the procedures involved.

Your rent should always be your top financial priority – even if you have other debts – because you could lose your home if you get into rent arrears. You may be able to claim Housing Benefit to help pay the rent if you are on benefits or have a low income. An adviser will be able to check whether you are claiming everything you are entitled to.

Who is responsible for repairs?

The housing association should give you information about what repairs you are responsible for, which usually includes internal decoration and putting right any damage you cause.

The housing association is usually responsible for most other repairs, including any problems with the roof, guttering, windows, doors and brickwork. They also have to ensure that the plumbing, gas and electricity are working safely. If your home needs repairs, report the problem to the housing association immediately.

If the housing association plans to do major work, it should consult you before the work begins. If you have to move out while the work is done, the housing association will probably have to rehouse you (temporarily or permanently), and you may be entitled to claim compensation.

For more information, see our pages on repairs in social housing.

Can I take in lodgers or sublet my home?

As a secure tenant you automatically have the right to take in a lodger and can probably sublet part of your home (such as a bedroom) if you get written permission from the housing association first. Check to see what your tenancy agreement says about lodgers and subletting. The housing association can’t refuse permission without a good reason, but one reason might be if your home was to become overcrowded with someone else moving in.

However, if you are claiming benefits, bear in mind that the amount you get could be reduced, even if your lodger or subtenant doesn’t pay you any rent. This also applies to partners or adult family members who move in with you.

If you move out and sublet the whole of your home to someone else, you will lose your secure status and the housing association will be able to end your tenancy very easily. However, it is possible to spend time living somewhere else and still keep your tenancy. To do this, you must be able to show that you are planning to return (for example, by leaving your personal belongings at home). If you need to spend time living elsewhere, get advice before you move out.

Can I pass on my tenancy when I die?

The legal process is called succession, and it can normally only happen once.

If you have a joint tenancy, the other joint tenant will automatically take over the tenancy if you die. But, if you are the sole tenant, there are rules about who the tenancy can be passed on to.

A successor must be living in the property as their ‘only or principal home.’ A surviving husband, wife or registered civil partner will have priority over any other family member to inherit the tenancy. If you are another member of the family, it is possible that you can succeed to the tenancy but only if you have lived with the tenant for the past 12 months.

For more information, see our page on succession rights.

Can I pass on my tenancy during my lifetime?

This process is called assignment. As a secure tenant you have the right to assign your tenancy to any person who would be eligible to take on the tenancy by succession (see above). But if you want to do this, get advice first. If the correct process isn’t followed, you could still be legally responsible for paying the rent and the person who stays on could be evicted.

Can I get a transfer or exchange my home?

If you want to move, it may be possible to get a transfer to another property owned by your housing association. Many housing associations have a waiting list for tenants who want a transfer. However, you may have to wait a long time until a new property is available, particularly if you have a large family.

Alternatively, you may be able to swap homes by mutual exchange with someone who rents from the same housing association, a different housing association or a local council. It may be possible to exchange with someone locally or in another part of the country.

Can I buy my own place?

As a secure tenant of a housing association you might currently have the right to buy your home, at a discount, under the Right to Acquire scheme. This is very similar to the right to buy scheme for council tenants but only a few tenants are eligible for the scheme. For more details of who is eligible and to read a Guide on the Right to Acquire, click here.

A few housing association tenants have a preserved Right to Buy their home. You may qualify for this if:

  • you used to be a council tenant, and
  • your home was transferred from a local authority to a housing association, and
  • your tenancy has not been demoted at any time.

The Right to Acquire scheme will be abolished in Wales on the 26 January 2019 for existing housing association properties and has already been suspended in some areas.

So if you are a social housing tenant and want to acquire your home at some time in the future, you may find you are no longer allowed to do so. Get advice as soon as possible. Take a look at the Welsh Government booklet which sets out the steps to take if you wish to apply to acquire your home before the rights are abolished. (The booklet is available in other languages here).

For more information contact your landlord or a Shelter Cymru adviser.

Alternatively, you may be able to buy a home through a number of other home-ownership schemes designed to help tenants get onto the property ladder. These include :

Ask your housing association or local council about the schemes that are available locally.

Can I get involved in the management of my home?

Your housing association should consult and involve you in decisions that are likely to affect you. You might be able to join a tenants’ committee and help in the running of the housing association.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to act on your wishes. Ask the housing association for more information about how you can get involved, and how final decisions will be made.

Where can I find out more about my rights?

The Welsh Government has produced a Regulatory Framework which all housing associations registered in Wales should follow. This Framework sets out important standards which each housing association should meet and explains what tenants can expect.

You should also check your tenancy agreement and tenants’ handbook, because some housing associations give their tenants additional rights. If you are in any doubt about a legal issue, you can always check with your local Shelter Cymru office.

What if I want to make a complaint?

If you feel that the housing association isn’t treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its responsibilities, you should use its official complaints procedure. You usually have to do this before you can take things any further.

If you’re not happy with the response you get, you can complain further to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
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We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: March 15, 2018

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.