Am I a starter tenant?
A housing association will give you a starter tenancy as a 12-month trial period at the beginning of your tenancy. During this time you will have less rights, so you can be evicted more easily.
You will probably have a starter tenancy if:
- your housing association has a policy that all new tenancies will be starter tenancies, or
- you live in a designated area for starter tenancies, and
- the length of time specified for the starter tenancy (normally 12 months) has not yet elapsed.
How does a starter tenancy affect my rights?
A starter tenancy is a trial tenancy. They are not created by law, but are assured shorthold tenancies. It will give you less rights and less protection from eviction than a secure or assured tenant has. Most housing associations will give you a starter tenancy for the first year, but you should check to see what it says in your tenancy agreement.
At the end of the starter tenancy you should automatically become an assured tenant if your housing association does not take steps to evict you. If you have a joint tenancy, the trial period ends as soon as one of the joint tenants has completed the trial period. Anytime you have spent as a starter tenant with another housing association should count towards the trial period, but you should check to see if it says otherwise in your agreement.
Can I be evicted?
Yes. Starter tenants can be evicted fairly easily. Housing associations can only bring a starter tenancy to an end by obtaining a court order for possession. It doesn’t have to prove a legal reason (known as a ground) in court, and if it follows the correct procedure the judge will have no choice but to order an eviction. Your housing association must give you at least two months’ written notice that it is going to ask the court to evict you but doesn’t have to explain its reasons why.
In very limited circumstances, you may be able to argue before the court that the decision of the housing association to evict you was unlawful or that your eviction would not be proportionate. This is a developing area of law and you will need to seek advice from an experienced adviser before raising such an argument.
Even if you have been taken to court by your housing association or have a date when the bailiffs are coming, get in touch with an adviser immediately to find out whether the eviction can be delayed or even stopped. Some advisers may be able to help you by checking that the correct procedure has been followed, or by advising you on what options you have if you do lose your home. Find an adviser in your area.
For more information, see our pages on eviction of housing association tenants.
What are the rules about rent and rent increases?
There are rules about how and when the rent can be increased. Your tenancy agreement should explain the procedure. In most cases you should be given at least four weeks’ written notice of a rent increase. Your rent cannot be increased during the starter tenancy unless you agree to it. If you think your rent has been increased unfairly, you may be able to appeal to the Rent Assessment Committee (RAC). You must apply for an appeal before the date that your rent is due to go up. An adviser can tell you if it is worth appealing and may be able to help you put your case to the RAC.
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. Make sure you tell your housing association immediately if you are having difficulty with paying either the rent or service charges, because it should give you help and information about benefits that you could be eligible for. If you are claiming benefits or are on a low income, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit to help you pay the rent.
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. It also has 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 may 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 pass on my tenancy when I die?
Yes, starter tenancies can be passed on in the same way as assured tenancies. 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. The legal process is called succession, and it can normally only happen once.
Can I pass on my tenancy during my lifetime?
This process is called assignment. Most starter tenants can only assign their tenancy if the housing association agrees to it. If your tenancy agreement doesn’t say anything about assignment, you will need permission from the association. In this case, the housing association can refuse an assignment for any reason, whether you think this is reasonable or not. If you want to assign your tenancy, get advice first. If the correct procedure 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 are a starter tenant you will not normally be able to exchange or transfer your home. However, look at what it says in your tenancy agreement or speak to your housing association.
How can I buy my own place?
Starter tenants do not have the right to buy their home. If your tenancy becomes an assured tenancy you may then have the Right to Acquire, although this right is being abolished in Wales in January 2019 and has already been suspended in some areas.
If you don’t qualify to buy your home you may be able to buy a home through a number of other home-ownership schemes.
Getting involved in the management of your 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?
Your tenancy agreement should state what kind of tenancy you have and explain your rights and responsibilities. The housing association can’t normally make changes to it without your written consent. You should also check your tenants’ handbook, because some housing associations give their tenants additional 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.
Alternatively, visit advice near you to find a Shelter Cymru adviser in your area.
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.