Social Tenants and Succession of Secure Tenancies

HouseWhen a social tenant with a secure tenancy dies, their spouse or partner will succeed to the lease, but whether further succession to a tenancy is allowed depends on council policy. The law does not provide for more than one succession to such tenancies.

A recent case dealt with a situation in which the grandson of a couple who had a secure tenancy to a three-bedroom property was claiming the right to continue it. He had lived there since his birth 37 years ago and suffers from depression and panic attacks.

The council’s policy is not to allow more than one succession to a tenancy, in order to maintain its flexibility to prioritise need when allocating its available housing stock. The only exception it makes is for those aged over 65 (or those over 50 with learning difficulties who have a clear housing need and who have lived in the property for as long as it has been available or for at least ten years). The man did not meet those criteria.

When the council refused his application, he went to court claiming that the refusal was contrary to his human rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.

The fight went to the Court of Appeal, which considered the rights of the man and the public policy aspects of the council’s housing policy respectively. Hearing the  council’s evidence that, at the time when the possession proceedings had been issued, there were 1,161 households waiting for three-bedroom properties, of which 139 were homeless, 60 had disabilities and 395 were overcrowded, Lord Justice Briggs commented, “To have preferred the appellant, a single man, over those competing applicants would have undermined one of the fundamental principles of the respondent’s allocation scheme, namely the prioritising of those in greatest need.”

The application was rejected.

For advice on the law relating to any landlord and tenant issue, contact us.

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