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Staying in your council home when someone dies

This advice applies to Wales

You might be able to stay in your council or housing association home if the person named on the tenancy agreement dies - this is called succession. If you can stay, it will mean you'll take over their tenancy - this is known as succeeding.

You'll be responsible for paying the rent if you take over the tenancy - you'll usually need to pay rent from the date the previous tenant died.

Being able to stay in your home and take over the tenancy will depend on things like:

  • if you lived with them before they died - it will only count if it was your main home and not a temporary one
  • if you were living together as a couple
  • if you're related to the person who died
  • how long you lived with the person who died
  • the type of tenancy they had and how long they had it for
  • what the tenancy agreement says - it might give you more rights to take over the tenancy

You'll need to tell your local council or housing association that the person named on the tenancy agreement has died.

Check if there's already been a succession

There can usually only be one succession to a tenancy. If a succession has already happened, for example when one partner dies and the other one takes over the tenancy, it can't usually happen again. This means when the second partner dies, no one else will be able to take over the tenancy.

It's worth checking your tenancy agreement - it might say succession can happen more than once.

If you were joint tenants

If you're a named tenant on the tenancy agreement, you'll keep the tenancy automatically.

Check the tenancy type

You'll need to check what type of tenancy the person who died had - once you know this, you'll be able to check your succession rights.

If you're not sure what type of tenancy they had, use Shelter's tenancy checker to find out.

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you can't find out the tenancy type of the person who died.

If they had a secure, flexible or introductory tenancy

You can take over the tenancy and stay in your home if you were married to or in a civil partnership with the person who died. You'll also need to have been living in the property as your main home.

You might still be able to take over the tenancy if you weren't married or in a civil partnership with them. You'll need to have been living in the property as your main home.

Depending on when the tenancy started, you may also need to have been living there for a year.

If the tenancy started before 1 April 2012

You should be able to take over the tenancy and stay if the property was your main home and you were living with the person who died for at least a year.

You'll also need to have been either:

in a couple with them before they died - this means you were living with them as if you were married or in a civil partnership
related to them - this includes if they were your step-relation, half-relation or in-law (it doesn't include foster children)

If you were married or in a civil partnership with the person who died, you'll take priority over any other family members.

It's worth checking the tenancy agreement - it might say other people can take over the tenancy.

If the tenancy started after 1 April 2012

You should be able to take over the tenancy and stay in the property if you were in a couple with the person who died. This means you were living with them as if you were married or in a civil partnership. You'll also need to have been living in the property as your main home.

It's worth checking the tenancy agreement of the person who died if you weren't in a couple with them. It might say that someone else, for example another family member, can take over the tenancy.

If they had a demoted tenancy

You should be able to take over a demoted tenancy and stay if the property was your main home and you were living with the person who died for at least a year as their:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • partner and you were living together as if you were married or in a civil partnership with them

You might still be able to take over the tenancy if you weren't in a couple with the person who died. You'll need to have been living with them in the property as your main home for at least a year.

If a tenancy is demoted, it will usually be for a year. After this, it will usually go back to the type of tenancy it was before, unless your landlord decides to evict you.

If you take over a demoted tenancy it will stay demoted until the 12 months are up. For example, if the tenancy has already been demoted for 5 months, it will be demoted for another 7 months when you take it over.

If they had an assured tenancy

You can usually take over an assured tenancy and stay in the property if you were living with the person who died as their:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • partner and you were living together as if you were married or in a civil partnership with them

Check the tenancy agreement to see if you're allowed to take over the tenancy. It might say other family members can take it over if they were living with the person who died for at least a year before their death.

If they had an assured shorthold tenancy

You might be able to stay in your home - it will depend on how long the assured shorthold tenancy was for. This includes if you had a demoted assured tenancy which became an assured shorthold tenancy.

If it was fixed for less than 2 years

It's likely to be a starter tenancy if it's for a fixed term of less than 2 years. You won't usually be able to take over the tenancy .

If it was fixed for 2 years or more

You can usually take over the tenancy and stay in the property if it was your main home and you were living with the person who died as their:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • partner and you were living together as if you were married or in a civil partnership with them

Check the tenancy agreement to see if you're allowed to take over the tenancy. It might say other family members can take it over if they were living with the person who died for at least a year before their death.

If the fixed term ended and the tenancy continued

If the person who died had a tenancy for a fixed time and didn't sign a new agreement, they probably had a periodic tenancy.

You can usually take over the tenancy and stay in the property if it was your main home and you were living with the person who died as their:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • partner and you were living together as if you were married or in a civil partnership with them

Check the tenancy agreement to see if you're allowed to take over the tenancy. It might say other family members can take it over if they were living with the person who died for at least a year before their death.

Taking over the tenancy

You'll probably need to fill in a form and prove you have the right to take over the tenancy. Your local council or housing association should send you the form when you tell them about the death. If they don't, call them and ask what you need to do to take over the tenancy.

You might need to provide evidence that you lived in the property, for example bank statements, bills or benefit letters.

You might also need to prove:

  • the previous tenant has died - you'll probably need to show the death certificate
  • if you were married or in a civil partnership with the person who died
  • the property was your main home for at least a year before the person died
  • you currently live in the property

You'll need to ask when you'll need to pay rent from if they don't tell you.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help to take over the tenancy.

If the council say you can't take over the tenancy

If you think you should take over the tenancy, but the council say you can't, it's worth checking to see if they'll review their decision. You might need to ask them how to request a review.

Make sure you provide any evidence you have to prove you should take over the tenancy. This could include things like bills to show you've been living in the property for at least a year or that you're currently living there.

If your local council or housing association won't review or change their decision, they might start possession proceedings - this means you could be evicted. You'll have the opportunity to tell the court why you think you should have succeeded the tenancy and why you think the council is wrong. You'll need to fill in the defence form - you'll get this from the court.

You should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice if you think the council have got it wrong.

Deciding who should take over the tenancy

If you were married to or in a civil partnership with the person who died you'll get priority over anyone else to take over the tenancy.

If you were living with the person as if you were married or in a civil partnership, you'll usually have priority over someone who wasn't in a relationship with them.

If you are another family member and are entitled to take over the tenancy along with other people, only one of you can take it over. You'll need to decide between you - for example if you and your brothers and sisters are entitled to take over the tenancy, you'll need to decide who does.

If you can't decide, your local council will decide if you're in a council home. A court will decide if you're in a housing association home.

If you can't take over the tenancy

You won’t have to move out straight away. You should get at least 4 weeks’ notice from the council or housing association.

After 4 weeks, the council or housing association will have to go to court to make you leave - this will take time. You might have to pay costs if your council or housing association go to court to make you leave, but you could get more time in your home.

You should stay in the property until you have to leave if you have nowhere else to go. You should also check if you can apply for homeless help.

Get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice if you're being evicted because the tenant has died.

Rent payments while you're still in the property

You won't usually have to pay rent if you can't take over the tenancy after the tenant dies.

Your local council or housing association will have to claim the money back from the estate of the person who died. Their estate means things like their belongings or any money they had.

If you stay in the property after the date you're told you have to leave, you might need to pay - your local council or housing association will tell you if you do. The money you'll have to pay is called 'use and occupation charges' - this is similar to rent.

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