When someone inherits a house, they are usually faced with the options of either moving into it, selling it or renting it out. They will need to consider their personal financial circumstances as well as monthly income and savings. Owning a house includes payments of taxes as well as a host of maintenance costs. If the house that they inherit falls in a higher council tax band, the residents will also have to bear added expenses as a result.

Can I Keep My Council House If I Inherit A House?

There are chances that you may not be able to keep your council house if you inherit a property. The reason for this is that the eligibility criteria for council housing include a means test. Therefore, individuals facing financial hardship qualify for council housing while those who may be financially stable enough to own a private property may not.

There have been instances at which individuals have deliberately concealed their private property or inheritance from council authorities in order to maintain council housing residency as well as state benefits that they were claiming. However, once councils find out about intentional attempts to hide factual details about one’s financial (or even personal/circumstantial) situations, tenants may bay be evicted from council housing property or even fined a hefty amount.

The very reason that council houses are provided on low rent by the government is to give shelter to those individuals faced with low incomes or those who may be claiming benefits. If someone has the means to own a property, it is not only unethical to claim council housing but also illegal as they would have had to submit false documents to prove eligibility for council housing or have deliberately hidden the facts about their finances from local authorities.

Generally, each council has their own rules for the provision of council homes. This is called an “allocation scheme”; according to which applicants’ eligibility criteria and priorities are assigned. However, as a basic rule, anyone who is above 18 years of age, low on income and savings can apply for council housing. Some councils also require a “local connection” of the applicant. This means that either they have lived in the vicinity for a number of years or they have a family or job in the area.

To learn more about the rights and duties of council housing tenants, we will explore the following topics:

  • Who Is Eligible For Council Housing?
  • Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?
  • Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?
  • Can Council Houses Be Passed Down?
  • Can Council Houses Be Bought?

Who Is Eligible For Council Housing?

Key criteria for council housing eligibility include the following:

  • the applicants hold British or Irish citizenship
  • they have indefinite leave to remain
  • they fall under settled status (under the EU settlement scheme)
  • they are refugees or under humanitarian protection
  • they are a Commonwealth citizen with a right of abode

While each council has an individual allocation scheme to follow in terms of assigning priority to council housing applicants, those claimants who fulfil any of the following criteria are expected to be higher on priority:

  • if someone is legally homeless 
  • they have to move homes due to a serious medical condition or disability
  • due to hardship-anything from medical treatment or potential danger to changing jobs
  • currently residing in an over-crowded house or under poor living conditions

Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

Applicants will need to check with their local councils whether a place of residence will be chosen and assigned by the council or the residents be given the option to choose. In the case of the latter, once the application is approved, the local council may share an online platform where the process of “bidding” takes place.

If a candidate finds a suitable home and prefers it as their residence, they may inform the council of their intent by applying for it online. This is called “bidding”. The council may then direct them on how to proceed with the next steps in the bidding process.

A bid is merely a show of interest from the candidates’ side and does not guarantee that they may be assigned the premises. Depending upon the priority band and the time taken as part of the waiting list, the council decides whether the property is to be assigned as a housing facility to the bidding candidate or not.

In some cases, should candidates not approve of the housing facility assigned by the local council, they have the option of refusing it. However, too many refusals may 

Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?

Yes, someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you intend to ask someone to live with you as a carer or a joint tenant, or you intend to sublet your council house, you must consult your tenancy agreement and discuss with your landlord/local council office prior to making any commitments.

If you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, any changes to the number of people in your home might have an impact on the amount of benefit you were receiving prior to them moving in especially if they are expected to contribute towards the rent. Even if the additional occupants are not expected to contribute towards the rent, the council expects them to share your rent and taxes if they are non-dependants. This means that you will face a reduction in your benefits if someone who is classified as a non-dependant comes to live with you.

If you are not on benefits, you only have to inform your landlord of the addition of occupants to your household especially if they are expected to share the rent with you. There is a possibility that your tenancy agreement will need to be changed to adjust for joint tenancy. 

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.

Can Council Houses Be Passed Down?

Yes, council houses can be passed down but this can only be applied once per the tenancy agreement. For instance, if the tenancy has passed down from one person to another, the successor will not be able to pass it down again. The only exception to this rule may be the permission for “second succession” or “discretionary succession” granted by local council authorities in their council tenancy agreement with renters.

In addition to this, the type of tenancy also plays an important role in deciding on the succession of a renter. Let’s analyse the different situations that apply in the case of succession of tenancy:

  • The succession of a council house in case of joint tenancy: A joint succession agreement includes two (or more) tenants as the renters who share the responsibility of maintaining responsibilities towards the property. In this case, if one tenant dies, the tenancy is automatically passed on to the surviving tenant. However, it is essential for the successor to maintain the council property as their main residence.
  • The succession of a council house in case of sole tenancy: In most cases, council house tenancy can be passed down to the surviving partner/spouse/civil or unmarried partner of a deceased tenant through “succession rights”. However, it is essential for the partner to be living in the council house at the time of the demise of their partner in whose name the tenancy agreement is. In some cases, it may also be passed down to close family members if the deceased is your parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, child, grandchild, niece or nephew.

As a general rule, in the case of succession rights, the rights of surviving partners override those of close family members.

Can Council Houses Be Bought?

Yes, council houses can be bought under the Right to Buy by local council tenants scheme but there are certain basic conditions to be met. These include the following:

  • The council house is the applicant’s main home
  • The property is self-contained
  • The applicant is a secure tenant
  • The applicant has had a public sector landlord for at least five years

There is also an option of buying your council house under a joint application. In this case, it is essential for the applicant to either file their council house application with someone as their joint owner and be willing to share their responsibilities as a house owner or have up to three family members (who have lived with them for at least 12 months) willing to share ownership rights.

Under “Preserved Right To Buy” you can purchase a council house that you lived in but the council sold it to a housing association landlord.

In case, you are a housing association tenant, you can apply for the purchase of your council house by filling the  Right to Acquire Application Form To be eligible, your must spend at least three years as a council house tenant and fulfil all the eligibility criteria that apply to local council tenants. However, you should not apply under the Right To Buy or Preserved Right To Buy schemes.

Voluntary Right To Buy allows you to purchase a council house that you may not have lived in.

Conclusion:

Keeping your council house after an inheritance may not be the right thing to do since council homes are intended for those individuals who are unable to afford a privately rented property. However, if maintaining a private home is not financially feasible for a council house tenant and they do not intend to keep an inherited property over the long term, they must make arrangements to sell the inherited property at the earliest. 

FAQs: Can I Keep My Council House If I Inherit A House?

Can a council tenant own another property?

No, a council tenant is not supposed to own another property while maintaining their council housing residency status.

What happens if I get left a house in a will?

If you are left a house in a will, you will need to make a decision regarding whether you choose to sell, rent or live in the property. 

How do I transfer ownership of an inherited house?

To transfer the ownership of an inherited house, you will need to transfer the deed to your name by having a new one made. You will also need to follow a trail of other legal obligations as well such as obtaining a copy of the probated will as well as the death certificate for the transfer process to commence. 

What happens if you inherit a house without a mortgage?

If you inherit a house without a mortgage, your decision to move into it becomes much easier to make. You will need to go through a process called probate before the property can be transferred to your name.

Can I swap my council house?

Yes, you can swap your council house under “mutual exchange” if you are a Secure Tenant and you have permission from your landlord.

References:

Will Inheritance Affect My Council Tenancy?

Council Tenancy Explained – Goulden House

Council tenants with second homes – a Freedom of Information request to Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities – WhatDoTheyKnow

Occupancy rights

Can someone live with me in my council house?

Getting a council home

Council housing

Taking over a tenancy

Succession rights

Buy your council home

How to go about a council house exchange

Types of tenancies

Taking over a tenancy

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