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Succession rights and social housing (England)

Published Sunday, September 2, 2018

This briefing paper provides an overview of the statutory rights of occupiers of social housing in England to succeed to a tenancy on the death of the previous sole or joint tenant. The rules in regard to secure council tenancies changed in April 2012.

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One statutory succession is allowed

Within the current statutory framework there can only be one statutory succession to a council or housing association tenancy in England.

The Localism Act 2011 - changes post 1 April 2012

The Localism Act 2011 amended the succession rights of people living with secure council tenants in England where the tenancy was created after 1 April 2012.  In these cases, a statutory right to succeed is limited to the spouse/partner of the deceased tenant.  This has always been the case in regard to succession to an assured housing association tenancy.

For secure tenancies created before 1 April 2012, the right to succeed may, currently, be claimed by a member of the deceased tenant’s family, subject to certain eligibility criteria.

Succession and under-occupation

Even though a member of the deceased tenant’s family may currently have a statutory right to succeed to a secure council tenancy, if they are under-occupying the property the landlord may seek repossession on the grounds that “suitable alternative accommodation” has been offered. There have been a number of legal challenges concerning attempts to regain possession of under-occupied properties in these circumstances.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contains measures which would further restrict the right to succeed to a secure tenancy to spouses and civil partners and those who live together irrespective of when the tenancy was entered into. When introducing the new provisions in Public Bill Committee, the Minister, Marcus Jones, said the Government saw no justification for retaining an inconsistent approach to pre and post 2012 tenancies in terms of succession rights.

These changes were associated with removing the ability of local authorities in England to offer ‘lifetime’ tenancies to new tenants. On publication of the social housing Green Paper on 14 August 2018, A new deal for social housing, the Government announced that it would not implement the ending of lifetime tenancies “at this time”.  The Green Paper makes no reference to the measures on succession but the relevant provisions in the 2016 Act have not been brought into force at the time of writing.

This briefing paper gives an overview of the statutory rights of occupiers of social housing in England to succeed to a tenancy on the death of the previous sole or joint tenant.

Commons Briefing papers SN01998

Author: Wendy Wilson

Topics: Housing, Social rented housing

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