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Council tenant: Your rights

Being a council tenant is a little different from being a private tenant. Here’s what you need to know.

A standard row of council houses

What are my rights as a council tenant? 

Renting a council house differs from a private rental, and the rights of council tenants are usually stronger than those of private tenants.

But the first thing to understand is the type of tenancy agreement you have.

You’ll often be given an introductory tenancy – this lasts for 12 months and is like a trial tenancy.

At the end of the 12 months, you’ll either be considered a secure tenant or a flexible tenant. If the council isn’t happy with how your tenancy has gone, it might extend the trial by six months.

The council could also start eviction proceedings. 


What is a flexible tenancy? 

This is where you’re given a fixed-term contract. It’s for a minimum of two years, but is usually for at least five years.

During this time, you can rent out rooms in the property (but not the whole house) or apply under the Right to Buy scheme. You can find more on that below. 


What is a secure tenancy? 

A secure tenancy is where, as long as you don’t break the conditions of the tenancy, you can live in your council home for the rest of your life, if you wish. 

You’re allowed to make improvements to the home, too, with permission from the council. And, like a flexible tenant, you’re allowed to rent out rooms and apply for the Right to Buy scheme.


What’s the Right to Buy scheme? 

The Right to Buy scheme is where you can apply to the council to buy the property you’re living in at a discounted rate. 

When you’ve passed your introductory tenancy, you can apply to buy your council house, if you want to.

To qualify, you must have been living in a council house for a total of three years, and it must be your only home. You can find out more about your eligibility for Right to Buy on GOV.UK


Transferring your tenancy

If you have a secure or flexible tenancy, you might be able to transfer it to someone else, or pass it on when you die.

Secure tenancies granted before April 2012 can be transferred or passed on only once. But some secure and flexible tenancies granted after this date can be transferred or passed on more than once.

The best thing to do is to check your tenancy agreement. If you’re still in doubt, speak to your landlord, the council – they’ll have a dedicated council tenants’ team.


Ending my council tenancy 

As with a private tenancy, you need to give four weeks’ notice, in writing to the council.

It’s also possible that during your tenancy the council may need to make improvements to your property.

If this happens, you’ll be moved to another property, which in effect ends the tenancy and starts a new one. To find out  more about council tenancies, check out GOV.UK’s guide.


Who pays the insurance? 

When it comes to home insurance, you’re responsible for your contents.

If something happens to your council property – there’s a break-in, or fire or flood – it’s down to you to make sure you have adequate cover.

It’s worth checking out some of the specialist tenants’ insurance policies that are available.

The responsibility for the building itself, however, is the landlord’s responsibility, so the council will deal with your buildings insurance.

This means if the property becomes uninhabitable, it’ll be the council who is responsible for finding you alternative accommodation.


Do tenants pay council tax? 

Yes. Regardless of whether you’re a council tenant or a private tenant, it’s down to the person or people living in the home to pay the council tax.

Of all the bills you get, this is one of the most important to pay. 

If you’ve missed a payment, get in touch with the council as soon as possible. The council has the power to take money owed straight from your wages or benefits.

If you’re worried about late council tax payments and where you stand, your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help.