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4 Renting and Letting

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1. Introduction

2. Private tenancies

3. Council tenancies

4. Housing association tenancies

5. Other issues

Bedsits and hostels
Some types of rented accommodation are called 'houses in multiple occupation' (HMOs), including most:

  • houses split into bedsits;
  • houseshares where everyone has a separate tenancy or licence agreement;
  • hostels; and
  • bed and breakfasts.

Local councils must operate an HMO licensing scheme for buildings of three or more storeys that have five or more people from more than one household living there. They may operate a licensing scheme for other HMOs, too. The schemes enforce regulations covering things like fire precautions and fire escapes, toilets and washing and kitchen facilities.

If you live in an HMO and you have a problem, contact the environmental health officer at the local council, who can order the landlord to make repairs or improve vital facilities.

Relationship breakdown
If your relationship with your spouse or partner breaks down, your options depend on whose name or names are on the tenancy agreement, and whether you are married. For more information, see the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflets ´Divorce and Separation´ or ´Living Together and your Rights if you Separate´.

Passing on a tenancy
An assured or assured shorthold tenancy cannot be passed on ('assigned') to someone else, unless the landlord agrees to it. A secure tenancy can usually only be assigned to someone who would have the right to take it over after you die. However, you can usually swap your tenancy with another secure tenant (called a transfer).

If you have a regulated tenancy, it can be passed on oly if it is a 'contractual' tenancy (unless the contract specifically says it cannot). A 'statutory' regulated tenancy cannot be passed on. If you are not sure which type you have, seek advice.

Always get advice before assigning your home to someone. If you don't follow the right procedure, you and the person you assign your home to could both be evicted.

Passing on a tenancy when someone dies
If a tenant dies, another member of the family may be able to take over the tenancy (called 'succession'). With a periodic assured or assured shorthold tenancy, the tenancy automatically passes to the tenant's husband or wife or partner (whether or not they were in a civil partnership), if they were living with the tenant before they died. However, this will not happen if the tenant who dies had held the tenancy only because it had been passed to them from a previous husband, wife or partner who had died.

If there is no husband, wife or partner, the tenancy may be passed to someone else under the will of the person who has died. However, when someone has inherited a periodic assured tenancy in this way, the landlord has the right to get possession of the property (and therefore evict the tenant) if they apply to do so within 12 months of the original tenant dying.

With a secure tenancy, the tenancy passes to the husband or wife or partner (including a same-sex partner) or, if they didn't have one, to any member of the family who has lived with the tenant for at least a year before they died. When this type of tenancy is passed on, that person may have to move to a different property if the council or registered social landlord says the house or flat is larger than they need. There can be only one succession, which means the tenancy will end when the person who succeeded the original tenant dies.

If you or someone you live with has a regulated tenancy and you are concerned about what happens if you, your husband or wife, or other close relative dies, you should seek advice, because the situation is more complicated.

In all types of tenancy, if there are joint tenants, the share of the property belonging to the person who dies automatically passes to the other tenant or tenants.

Letting to someone else
Tenants are usually allowed to let a room in their home to a lodger:

  • unless the tenancy agreement specifically says they can't; and
  • as long as the arrangement doesn't give the lodger sole rights to any part of the property.

The lodger would be classed as a licensee (see 'The difference between a licence and a tenancy'). But if the tenant creates a tenancy with a person, which would give that person sole rights to part of the home, this is called sub-letting, and would need the landlord's permission. Most tenants are not allowed to sublet the whole of their home. If they do this, they could be evicted.

If you can't afford your rent
If you have a low income, you may be able to get housing benefit through your local council to help you pay your rent. Your savings, as well as your income, will be used to work out whether you can get benefit, and if so, how much.

Most people who can claim housing benefit can also claim council tax benefit. For more information about housing benefit and how to apply for it:

For more information about claiming benefits generally and your rights to benefits, see the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Welfare Benefits’.

If you are behind with your rent, and having problems with debt, see the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Dealing with Debt’.

6. Problems with neighbours

7. Further Help

8. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Shelter.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet version: October 2006

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