You are a social housing tenant if you rent your home from a Council or Housing Association.

Over the last 20 years the rights of social housing tenants, especially their rights against eviction have been steadily reduced and the higher standards of service and support that social housing tenants used to enjoy is decreasing.

The first step in understanding your rights as a tenant is to work out what kind of tenancy or licence agreement you have.

Whilst we hope the information on this page is useful and helps social housing tenants better access their rights – it is no substitute for legal advice.

If you are in Greater Manchester and need advice about your rights as a homeless person, or help to enforce them please contact us:

Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC)

159 Princess Road
Moss Side
Manchester
M14 4RE

Opening hours
Monday to Thursday 10am to 3pm
Fridays for appointments only

Contact information

Phone 0161 769 2244
Email reception@gmlaw.org.uk

On our Contact page, you will find a map with location of our premises and travel information.

If we cannot help you with your problem we will try to give you more information and refer you to an organisation who can.

Secure Tenancy

Before the late 1980s, the vast majority of social housing was Council housing and so people could vote for in Council elections for the political party that they thought would do the best job. Council Tenancies were “Secure Tenancies”, which meant generally that as long as tenants paid their rent and kept to the rules in their tenancy agreement they could stay in their property for life, with the right to pass on their property after death to certain family members.

Assured Tenancy

In 1989 and 1997 the government brought in new laws that allowed Councils to transfer their housing stock to housing associations and on the promise of improvements to their homes, many Council tenants voted in favour. This meant that Council “Secure Tenancies” became “Assured Tenancies”, with existing tenants kept their previous rights, but with the rights of new tenants being reduced.

Introductory tenancy

From 1997, the government also began to allow Council’s to offer tenancies with less security against eviction. For Councils these were called Introductory Tenancies and these intended to make it easier for Council’s to evict people if there were problems within the first 12 months. The government also gave Councils the power to apply to “demote” a tenancy, to make it easier to evict a tenant in the future.

Assured shorthold tenancy

Some Housing Associations decided that they also wanted to make it easier to evict people within the first 12 months of their tenancy and so many began to offer Assured Shorthold Tenancies with less protection against eviction to new tenants, only granting them more rights against eviction after the first 12 months.

Flexible tenancy

From 2012, Councils were given the power not to offer “life time” Secure Tenancies but to offer, fixed term tenancies instead, which can be as short as 2 years. After the fixed term the landlord reviews your circumstances and decides whether to give Notice to end your tenancy, offer you another fixed term tenancy, or offer you a life time, secure tenancy. Although the government encouraged Councils to use these new fixed term tenancies, many decided not to do so and to continue to offer their tenants life time security (often after the first 12 months). As a result, in 2016 the government changed the law again: Councils can now be forced to offer fixed term tenancies and sell their most valuable homes by extending the Right to Buy for Housing Association Tenants.

Housing Associations are still free to choose what type of tenancy to offer. It used to be the case that they were expected to offer tenancies with most security, but this isn’t the case anymore and more and more Housing Associations are offering Assured Shorthold Tenancies, even after the first 12 months, in the same way as private landlords do.

Non-secure tenancies

You are likely to have a None Secure Tenancy if you are living in temporary homeless accommodation provided by the Council and are waiting for an offer of accommodation. Although you have far less rights than other tenants, you still cannot be evicted without a court order.

Licence agreement

You are likely to have a Licence Agreement if you have a Council or Housing Association landlord and are living in a hostel or a shared house, and where your landlord has the right to move you from one room to another, or to let themselves into your room without your permission.

Some licences are called “Excluded Licences” and for these licences your landlord may be able to lawfully evict you without a court order, so long as they follow the procedure set out in your Licence Agreement.

For all other Licence Agreements, your landlord needs to get a possession order from the court before you can be evicted.

Greater Manchester Law Centre believes that Council’s and Housing Associations should offer their tenants life time, affordable, tenancies wherever possible and should take steps to evict only as a last resort and when all other efforts to resolve tenancy problems have failed.

Until then it is very important that tenants know and use the rights that they have when faced with the threat of eviction by their social landlord and understand the additional responsibilities that social landlords have.

Below is some further information about the extra duties that social landlords have to tenants (in addition to those set out in the Tenancy Agreement.

Pre-action Protocol for Rent Arrears Cases

The Pre-action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords sets out the steps that a social landlord should take before serving Notice to Seek Possession on Secure or Assured Tenants because of rent arrears:

In summary the Protocol requires landlords to contact the tenant at an early stage, find out the reason for the arrears, consider whether the tenant has communication difficulties or any particular vulnerability, offer help when the arrears have arisen out of issues in claiming benefits, and try to agree affordable amounts for the tenant to pay towards the arrears. If they come to an agreement and the tenant keeps to it, the landlord should not start court proceedings.

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/protocol/pre-action-protocol-for-possession-claims-by-social-landlords

  • Template letter to send to a social landlord when they are threatening to evict you without following the protocol (to come)

The Public Law Duty

All Councils and most Housing Associations are considered public authorities. Public authorities can be challenged if they take decisions contrary to their own policies, without considering all relevant information, or if they take decisions that no reasonable public authority could be expected to take. If a social landlord acts against their public law duties then this can be a defence to possession proceedings.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination because of theirage disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnerships pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The duty not to discriminate against tenants (directly or indirectly) applies to all landlords (including private), however Councils and Housing Associations have an additional duties to consider the special needs of certain groups of tenants and to consider taking positive action to meet these needs.

If a landlord fails to comply with the Equality Act then this can be a defence to possession proceedings. This can give all types of tenants extra protection. For example if a tenant has a disability or limited English which has meant that they have been unable to sort out their rent or benefit problems, a landlord will have to show that they have considered this and taken reasonable steps to help, before they have decided to evict.

Human Rights

In exceptional cases, tenants of social landlords can use human rights arguments to defend possession proceedings. Generally you will need to show that because of the circumstances of your case and the seriousness of the consequences of losing your home, a decision to evict you would be so unfair (disproportionate) that it would be a breach of your human rights (Article 8 – the right to respect for your home). This can give extra protection against eviction for some tenants who don’t have any other defence and whose circumstances are exceptional (for instance those who need to live in a particular property for medical reasons and who would suffer serious harm if evicted).

Complaints to regulators

Tenants should also be aware that social landlords have regulators and that, if tenants have a problem with their landlord that does not get resolved by following the landlords complaints policy then they can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman for Council landlords (https://www.lgo.org.uk/) and to the Housing Ombudsman for most other social landlords. (https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk).

The Ombudsman will not help for matters which are already in court, but they can deal with other problems. The Ombudsman has the power to investigate and report on complaints and to make recommendations (including with regard to financial compensation.