When a tenant dies, a husband, wife, civil partner or other family member may have the right to inherit the tenancy. The legal term for this is succession.
Family members who can succeed
A tenancy that started before April 2013 can be succeeded by the deceased tenant’s:
- Civil partner
- Unmarried heterosexual partner
- Same-sex partner
- Adopted child
A tenancy that started from April 2013 can be succeeded by the deceased tenant’s:
- Civil partner (registered under the Civil Partnership Act 2004).
Family members under the age of 18 can succeed to a tenancy. In such cases, a trustee would need to be agreed to hold the tenancy in trust for the child.
When a succession is allowed
A succession takes place if all the following conditions are met:
- The successor is a qualifying family member
- The deceased tenant must have been using the property as their only home before their death.
- The successor must have lived at the property as their main home with the deceased tenant for at least the 12 consecutive months before the date of death. Or
- The successor must have been living at the property as their main home with the deceased tenant when they died if they were their husband/wife or civil partner.
When a succession is not allowed
A succession cannot take place if:
- The deceased tenant had previously succeeded to the tenancy (including a person who was joint tenant and became a sole tenant after the other joint tenant died)
- There had previously been an assignment of the tenancy which includes assignment by mutual exchange or a property adjustment order under the Family Law Act
- The deceased person had been living alone
- The deceased tenant had left the property and was not using it as their only home
- The deceased tenant had left the property and been admitted to hospital or a residential home for long-term care or treatment
- A possession order had been granted which ended the tenancy
- The applicant for succession is unable to prove that they are a family member or that they live/had lived at the address.
If more than one person has the right to succeed
Only one person can take over the tenancy.
If there is a joint tenant, they will usually succeed the tenancy.
Where more than one person applies for succession and there is no remaining joint tenant, priority goes to the tenant’s spouse or civil partner.
If there is no spouse or civil partner who qualifies, the family members must decide between them who will succeed. If they are unable to agree, we will decide.