Social housing tenancy agreements

Before you can move into social housing, you’ll need to sign a tenancy agreement. What does that involve and what do you need to know?

boy writing on box

What to know before you move in

What is a social housing tenancy agreement?

It’s a contract between you and a local authority or housing association, which lets you legally live in a property in return for paying rent.

What am I agreeing to when I sign?

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. By signing it, you’re agreeing to:

  • Live in the property for an agreed amount of time
  • Pay the agreed amount of rent and any service charges
  • Keep the property in good condition
  • Let staff and contractors in to do repairs
  • Not behave in an anti-social way

What information should I be given?

As well as your tenancy agreement, you might be given a tenants’ handbook or website address with more information.

You should be told the following:

  • What type of tenancy you’ll have
  • How much rent to pay, when to pay it and when it will go up
  • If anything else is included in the rent, like water charges
  • If there’s a service charge to pay on top of your rent, to cover things like maintaining communal areas
  • How much rent to pay when you move in – do they want some in advance?
  • What you can expect when you move in, which should include a visit to see how you’re settling in
  • Whether you’re allowed to have pets
  • What repairs you’re responsible for
  • Whether you’re allowed to decorate
  • How to make a complaint, should you need to

Are there different types of social housing tenancy?

There are different types of agreements, with different rules about things like rent rises and evictions.

Introductory or starter tenancies

These are for over-18s who are new to social housing or have spent time away from it. They work like trial periods and usually last for 12 months, but may be extended to 18.

If you have this kind of tenancy, your rent can’t go up unless you agree. But it’s easier to evict you – the housing association or local authority needs a court order to do this, but they can get one without proving a reason why.

The Scottish equivalent is called a short Scottish secure tenancy.

Secure tenancies

When an introductory tenancy finishes, it will usually turn into a secure tenancy. But this won’t happen if they’ve started action to evict you, or if they decide to extend the introductory period.

Secure tenants can only be evicted if there’s a legal reason, like not paying rent, damaging the property or anti-social behaviour. Otherwise, you can stay as long as you want. You’re also allowed to swap homes. Your rent can go up though – your tenancy agreement should explain when this will happen.

The Scottish equivalent is called a Scottish secure tenancy.

Flexible fixed-term tenancies

These give you the same rights as secure tenancies but for a fixed amount of time, such as five years. You can only be evicted in that time if there’s a legal reason.

As with a secure tenancy, you’re allowed to swap homes. Your rent can go up – your tenancy agreement should explain when.

Demoted tenancies

If you behave anti-socially, your housing association could try to evict you. Or they could ask the court to demote your tenancy for a year. This lets you stay in your home, but makes it easier to evict you in the future.

Tenancies for 16 and 17 year-olds

While under-18s can’t legally hold a tenancy, local authorities and housing associations should have arrangements in place for this age group.

You might get a license to live in a property until you’re 18, which gives you permission to stay but not a legal right. Or you could hold a joint tenancy with someone who’s over 18. If in doubt, check with your local housing office.

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By Anne Wollenberg

Updated on 09-Nov-2015

Photo by Shutterstock