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Taking over a property after a death

Succession Explained

This section explains how legally, a tenancy can be passed on to a husband, wife or civil partner through a process called 'succession' and in some cases, onto another family member such as a son or daughter.

Succession facts after the death of a council tenant.

There can only ever be one succession to a council tenancy.

In situations where the original tenancy was a joint tenancy and one of the original tenants dies, the surviving joint tenant will have taken over the tenancy by succession. When that person dies, nobody else can take over the tenancy.

If the person who died was a sole tenant their husband, wife or registered civil partner can take over the tenancy (provided  it hasn’t been passed on before) as long as they were living at the property at the time of their death. 

What if more than one person qualifies in succession?

The Housing Act sets out how the successor may be chosen if more than one person qualifies to succeed or receive the tenancy:

  • By law, a second succession is not possible, but in certain circumstances, we may pass the tenancy to a relative, for example a son or daughter or another close relative who has always lived with you.
  • If your tenancy passes to a relative when you die and the property is larger than your relative needs or is a certain type (such as a home specially adapted for disabled people), we may move them to another suitable property. If the tenancy passes to your husband, wife or partner when you die, we will let them stay in the property if they want to.

Succession by other family members

For council tenancies created before 1 April 2012, if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, it might be possible for another family member to succeed to the tenancy provided there hasn’t already been a succession to the tenancy. However, they must have been living in the home of the person who died for at least a year before their death.

Family members who can inherit a council tenancy include:

  • cohabiting partners
  • children
  • parents
  • siblings
  • most other close relatives, but not foster children.

If the tenancy started after 1 April 2012 family members other than spouses or partners are not legally able to succeed to the tenancy and our team members will offer support and advice to them about their housing options.  

What type of tenancy will I have?

If you succeed to a council tenancy, you will have the same type of tenancy as the person who died. So, if they had an introductory tenancy or a demoted tenancy, it will remain introductory or demoted until the full trial or demotion period has passed.

If you were a joint tenant with the person who died, you will be responsible for any rent arrears at the time of your joint tenant's death, as well as the on-going rent for the property .

Ask our advice

The succession process can be complicated as it is a legal matter so please talk to a Housing Officer.  

You may wish to take legal advice, for example by contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau.