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If you live in social housing then you will either be a tenant of your local authority or a housing association. The rights and obligations which go with these tenancies vary considerably. In this article, we look at the main differences.

Social HousingYour Rights if you are a Tenant

Most people who rent from a housing association or council are assured tenants which means that they are guaranteed the right to live in the home for life so long as they are not evicted for non-payment of rent or other breaches of the tenancy agreement.

However, some tenants of housing associations are on assured shorthold tenancies which may mean that their housing association is able to end their tenancy when the fixed-term runs out.

Other types of housing association tenancies are starter tenancies for new tenants and demoted tenancies for people who have been convicted of certain types of behaviour by a court and results in fewer protections against eviction.

If you have an assured tenancy, you’ll must be given a written tenancy agreement which spells out your rights and responsibilities and what type of tenancy it is. You may also be given a tenant’s handbook which goes into these in more detail.

In the main, as a housing association or council tenant, you have the right to live in your home without interference if you adhere to the rules of the agreement. If the housing association of council wants to evict you, then it must go to court to get an order. Some of the reasons for a court order include:

  • Failure to pay the rent or regularly being late with payments – those who are in arrears with their rent by eight weeks or more are at risk of eviction
  • Upsetting or causing a nuisance to your neighbours
  • Using the home for illegal purposes such as drug dealing or prostitution

Rents & Other Charges

Since April 2016, most housing associations have been legally obliged to reduce the rent charged to most of their tenants by 1% each year until 2020. Rents vary across the country according to market house prices.

Tenants may be eligible to apply for housing benefit or universal credit to help with rental payments if they are on low incomes or in receipt of other forms of benefit.

On top of rent, tenants may also be required to pay service charges to maintain communal areas on an estate made up of housing association properties.

While the housing association or local authority will be responsible for most of the repairs needed around the home (the most common ones involve problems with the structure of the property, the roof, the windows, the doors, plumbing, gas, electricity and the guttering), a tenant may be responsible for repairs to decoration and damage to fixed items within the home.

Sub-letting your Home

It is a criminal offence for tenants of housing associations to rent out all of their home to somebody else and you could face eviction if you do this even if the third party has moved out when the association discovers it.

The majority of assured tenants have the right to take in a lodger. You should check your tenancy agreement if you are thinking of doing this because you may need written permission from the council or association before advertising. There are few circumstances where the landlord can refuse permission but one of them is if it thinks that taking on a lodger would make the home overcrowded.

Should you take in a lodger, the amount of rent that you get to keep may be reduced if you are in receipt of benefits.

Moving Home

People with assured tenancies have the right to move to other council or housing association properties. You can do this by either getting a transfer to another tenancy through the local authority or housing association or by exchanging homes with another council or association tenant even if they are in a different part of the country.

Purchasing your Home

The rules around Right to Buy are complicated. While most tenants of housing associations do not have the right to buy their property, the situation is different for council tenants. Check the Government’s Right to Buy website for more information.

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