Succession of a social tenancy when the tenant dies

If someone you live with dies, and they have a Scottish secure tenancy with the council or housing association, you can sometimes inherit the tenancy and continue living there. This is called succession.

To qualify, you must have been living with the tenant in the property as your main or only home. If you’re refused succession of a tenancy you may be able to appeal the decision.

Check if you can succeed the tenancy

You must be 16 or older to succeed a tenancy.

You automatically take over the tenancy if you're a joint tenant. Otherwise you'll have to qualify to succeed.

Once you succeed you'll have a Scottish secure tenancy.

In some cases, you must have been living there for at least 12 months to succeed. This is 12 months counting from when you or the tenant told the landlord that you had moved in.

If you've just moved in, tell the landlord in writing straight away to avoid any issues with succession later on.

There are 3 levels of priority for succeeding a tenancy, sometimes called first, second and third priority.

First priority for succession

You can succeed the tenancy if the tenant was your:

  • joint tenant

  • spouse or civil partner

  • co-habiting partner, including same-sex partners

If the tenant was your spouse, civil partner or joint tenant it does not matter how long you've lived there.

If you're a co-habiting partner, you must have been living there for at least 12 months, counting from when you or the tenant told the landlord that you had moved in.

Second priority for succession

If no one has first priority, you qualify if the tenant was your family member.

To qualify you must have been living there for at least 12 months, counting from when you or the tenant told the landlord that you had moved in.

Family members are:

  • parents, including step parents

  • children, including step children

  • grandparents

  • grandchildren

  • siblings

  • aunts and uncles

  • nieces and nephews

If you and the tenant had a parent-child relationship, but not by blood or through marriage or civil partnership, you still qualify if:

  • the tenant raised you as their child

  • you raised the tenant as your child

Third priority for succession

If the first 2 groups do not qualify, you could qualify if you gave up your home to care for the tenant.

You must have been living there for at least 12 months, counting from when you or the tenant told the landlord that you had moved in.

If more than 1 person qualifies to succeed

If there's more than 1 qualified person on the same level of priority, you must decide among yourselves who should succeed. If you cannot agree, the housing association or council will decide.

Only 2 rounds of succession are allowed

You cannot succeed a tenancy if it has already been passed on twice, unless you are a joint tenant.

If the property is specially adapted

The rules for succession are different if the property was adapted for the needs of the tenant who died.

If the tenant was your spouse, civil partner, co-habiting partner or joint tenant, you can take on the tenancy.

If you’re a qualifying family member or carer, you can succeed if you can show that the property’s adaptations are suited to your own needs. If you do not need the adaptations, the landlord must offer you a suitable tenancy as an alternative.

If the tenancy is going through a second round of succession, you must always show you need the adaptations, no matter your relationship to the tenant.

If you're refused succession of a tenancy

This could happen if the landlord was not notified when you moved in, or if you do not qualify.

Talk to the landlord. Negotiating may help resolve the situation. The landlord can agree to give you your own Scottish secure tenancy under exceptional circumstances, even if you do not qualify.

Tell them about your circumstances, including how you came to live in the property, and the effect it would have on you if you were evicted.

Give the landlord as much proof as possible that you've been living in the tenancy, for example:

  • electricity, water, gas, or internet bills

  • driver's licence or ID card that shows your address

  • bank statements that show your name and address

  • home or contents insurance policies that list you as a policyholder

  • employment records such as pay slips that show your home address

  • official letters addressed to you at your residence

  • a letter from your GP or CPN saying when you registered at that address

  • letters from your neighbours to confirm you've been living there

Having a combination of these documents could strengthen your case. Get both recent and backdated documents if you can, to show a history of having lived at the tenancy.

Appealing the decision

Most landlords will have an internal appeals process. Ask the council or housing association how to appeal. Get advice if you need help:

You can also appeal the decision at the sheriff court. You must apply within 21 days of the landlord’s decision.

Get help from a solicitor for a court appeal. Find a solicitor from the Law Society of Scotland.

You could try getting legal help for free or at a lower cost.

Last updated: 31 January 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England