Types of tenancy

Your tenancy agreement is a legal document and tells you all the rules about living in your property.

Different council tenants have different tenancies. These give you different rights and responsibilities.

Introductory tenancy

New council tenants may be offered an introductory tenancy. These usually last 12 months and are like a ‘trial’ period.

You automatically become a secure or flexible tenant after 12 months, unless your council has either:

  • started action to evict you
  • extended your introductory tenancy for a further 6 months

There are limits to what you can do with an introductory tenancy, for example you cannot:

  • make major improvements to the property
  • swap your property with another council tenant
  • apply to buy your property through the Right to Buy scheme

Secure tenancy

As a secure tenant, you can normally live in the property for the rest of your life, as long as you do not break the conditions of the tenancy.

You can:

Scottish secure tenancy

You’ll usually have a Scottish secure tenancy if you rent your home from the council, a housing association or housing co-operative in Scotland.

Flexible tenancy

As a flexible tenant, you have tenancy for a fixed period. This is usually for at least 5 years, though in some cases it may be between 2 and 5 years.

At the end of the fixed period the council may decide to:

  • offer you another fixed-term tenancy
  • offer you a secure tenancy
  • not renew your tenancy

They must explain their reasons if they decide not to renew your tenancy and give you a chance to challenge the decision.

As a flexible tenant you can:

Joint tenancy

Under a joint tenancy, all the tenants share equal responsibility.

You can apply for a joint tenancy at any time if you’re married or in a registered civil partnership. You must usually have lived together at the property for at least 12 months if you’re a cohabiting couple or related (like brother and sister).

Transferring your tenancy

Secure and flexible tenants may be able to transfer a tenancy to someone else, or, in some circumstances, pass on a tenancy to someone when they die.

Secure tenancies granted before 1 April 2012 can be transferred or passed on only once. For example, if you take over a tenancy when someone dies, you cannot pass on the tenancy to someone else when you die.

Some secure and flexible tenancies granted from 1 April 2012 may mean you can transfer or pass on your tenancy more than once - check your tenancy agreement.

To transfer a tenancy, complete a ‘request to assign tenancy’ form, available from your local council’s housing department.

Ending your tenancy

Your tenancy can only be ended if:

  • you give the council 4 weeks’ notice in writing
  • the council evicts you
  • the council needs to move you, for example to redevelop the property - it should offer you a new property and a new tenancy with no less security

Secure tenancies can also end if:

  • the council needs to move you, for example to redevelop your property – it should offer you a new property and a new secure tenancy
  • you transfer your tenancy to someone else or swap homes

Ending joint tenancies

If only one of you wants to end the tenancy and the other joint tenant(s) wants to stay in the property, your council may:

  • give the remaining tenant(s) a new tenancy at the same property
  • not give them a new tenancy, for example because the property could be offered to another couple or family

If one joint tenant dies, the tenancy continues for the surviving tenant(s).

If you and your partner divorce or your relationship breaks down and you cannot agree on who gets the tenancy, a court can decide this.