Secure tenancies

What are secure tenancies?

Secure tenancies were initially introduced under Part 1 of the Housing Act 1980. They are now provided for by Part 4 of the Housing Act 1985 (HA 1985).  These are the principal type of tenancy granted by local authorities and certain other public sector bodies. 

Section 79 of the HA 1985 states that “a tenancy under which a dwelling house is let as a separate dwelling is a secure tenancy at any time where the conditions described in Sections 80 and 81 as the landlord condition and the tenant condition are satisfied”. A landlord must belong to one of a number of defined authorities or bodies.  A tenant must also occupy the dwelling as their only or principal home.  The reference to “at any time” in section 79 of the HA 1985 means that the tenancy will no longer be a secure tenancy if both the ‘tenant condition’ and ‘landlord condition’ are not satisfied.

Certain tenancies which satisfy both the landlord and tenant condition will nevertheless still be excepted from being secure tenancies in accordance with Schedule 1 of the HA 1985.

The majority of secure tenants, provided they meet the relevant criteria, have the benefit of several rights including security of tenure, certain rights of succession and certain rights to assign their tenancies by way of exchange.

What is security of tenure in relation to secure tenancies?

Secure tenants have security of tenure. This means that the tenancy can only be ended (and the tenants evicted) in certain circumstances (see Section 82 of HA 1985):

  • by an order of the court for possession and its execution;
  • by a demotion order; or
  • where the tenancy is for a fixed term certain but with a provision for re-entry of forfeiture, by an order determining the term certain (though even if a term certain is brought to an end, unless the court orders both termination and possession to take effect on the same date, a periodic tenancy will follow).

How can a tenant terminate a secure tenancy?

A secure tenant can terminate a secure tenancy by giving notice to quit of by voluntarily surrendering the tenancy. 

What are the grounds for a landlord to bring a secure tenancy to an end?

A landlord can take possession of a property let under a secure tenancy by obtaining and executing an order from the court for possession (section 82 of the HA 1985). Sections 84 and 84A of, and Schedules 2 and 2A to, HA 1985 contain the grounds for possession.  Section 84 provides that a court may not make a possession order on one of the grounds set out in Schedule 2 unless it is satisfied that it is reasonable, or that there is suitable alternative accommodation for the tenant available, depending on the ground which is being relied upon.  

Section 84A provides that the court must make an order if it is satisfied the conditions in that ground, which relate to serious anti-social behaviour, are met. Although the court does not have any discretion to decide not to make such an order if the conditions are met, the court’s decision is subject to any available defence of the tenant which is based on their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and where the landlord has satisfied any obligations it may have under section 85ZA. 

Section 85ZA provides that the landlord must, if the tenant requests it, carry out a review of their decision to seek possession on the grounds of serious anti-social behaviour under section 84A. This reflects case law, in particular the case of Manchester City Council v Pinnock [2010] UKSC 45, which held that tenants of public authorities have the right to raise the proportionality of a decision to evict as a defence to possession proceedings.

There are notice requirements and procedures that need to be followed by a landlord in seeking possession (see sections 83 and 83ZA of HA 1985). However, note the implications on notice periods and procedures contained in the Coronavirus Act 2020 as updated by the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (No.2) (Wales) Regulations 2021, SI 2021/708 (CRW2 Regulations 2021) which came into force on 30 June 2021 and also The Secure Tenancies (Notices) (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2005.

Can a secure tenant loose their right to security of tenure?

A secure tenant can lose the right to security of tenure in several situations detailed throughout the HA 1985. For example, where the landlord no longer satisfies the landlord condition or where the tenant no longer occupies the property as their only or principal home. 

Does the right to buy still apply in Wales?

Secure tenants of public sector landlords previously had the right to buy, preserved right to buy and the right to acquire their social housing property, dependent on the landlord with whom they have a tenancy agreement and whether certain conditions were met. However, this was abolished by the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Act 2018. A tenant’s Right to Buy and the Right to Acquire a social housing property in Wales was abolished on 26th January 2019.

What effect will the Renting Home (Wales) Act 2016 have on secure tenancies?

The law in relation to tenancies is due to change once the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is brought fully into force. See: Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

Published on
01 December 2021
Last updated
31 January 2023