Succession of tenancy on the death of a tenant

The purpose of this section is to advise tenant’s of their rights with regard to succeeding to the tenancy of a council property, in the event of the death of a tenant.

What action is needed in the event of the tenant's death?

The person left living at the property should inform the housing office as soon as possible. He/she will need to take along copy of the death certificate.

A housing officer will then arrange to interview the person left living at the property within 7 days.

The information provided here is designed as a guide to tenants rights, however, it does not provide a full explanation of the law.

Who is allowed to take over the tenancy on the death of a tenant?

The 1985 Housing Act states that the following people can apply to take over a tenancy, on the death of a tenant:

The deceased tenant's husband / wife or partner or a member of the deceased tenant's family which includes:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Grandchildren over the age of 16
  • Brother and sisters
  • Uncles and aunts
  • Nephews and nieces

The above categories include step relations, half relations, illegitimate children and people who are living together as husband and wife.

Which of the above categories will take priority?

Priority will be given to the tenant's partner, providing he/she has been living with the tenant at the time of the tenant's death and it is his/her only or principle home.

The housing department defines partner as being a husband and wife relationship.

How long must the successor have lived at the property?

 If the successor is not the husband, wife or partner of the deceased tenant, he/she must also be able to prove that he/she has lived with the tenant for 12 months, ending with the date of the tenant's death. In all cases the successor must be living at the property as his/her only or main home.

What happens if there are two sons or daughters entitled to succeed to the tenancy?

If there are two or more adult members of the tenant's family entitled to take over the tenancy, they may choose between themselves which one is to be the successor tenant. If no agreement can be reached, the council will decide.

What happens if the tenancy is Introductory?

Introductory tenancies are granted to all new tenants, unless they have transferred from another council or housing association property. An introductory tenancy is granted for 12 months, before it becomes secure.

For introductory tenants, the same rules of succession apply; however, the tenancy will remain Introductory until the 12-month period has passed. The start of the probationary period is the date when the original tenancy was granted.

Can the tenancy continue to be passed on as each tenant dies?

No. There is only one legal right to succession. Examples of a succession include:

  • When the tenant dies, and either their partner or a relative succeeds the tenancy.
  • In the case of a joint tenancy, when one of the tenants dies, leaving the other tenant living at the property.
  • If the tenancy has been previously assigned (handed over) from the tenant to a member of their family.

On succeeding to the tenancy, will the successor to be allowed to remain in the property?

In many cases, yes. If they are the tenant's husband, wife or partner, they will not be requested to move to another property. However, if they are another member of the family, Cornwall Housing can ask you to move to alternative accommodation. This may happen if:

  • The property is too large for your family or
  • The property is designed or has been altered to make it suitable for a physically disabled person, and that person no longer lives in the property

How quickly will the council make a decision, regarding my application?

A decision will be made within 28 days.

Will I know if the council intends to request that I move to an alternative property?

The tenant will be informed at the time of succeeding the tenancy. The council will then complete a housing application and will try to re-house the applicant to a suitable property.

What will happen if the successor refuses to move?

Cornwall Housing will serve a formal notice between 6 and 12 months after the date of the tenant's death. The case will then be referred to the County Court, which will decide on the future of the tenancy.

Can anyone who is not the husband/wife or close relative of the tenant succeed to the tenancy?

No.There is no legal right to succession. Lodgers or other people living with the tenant at the time of death will not be considered. However they may apply for a council tenancy, and may be eligible to be housed in the property, under the current allocations policy.