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Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:17 April 2019
Author:Callum Allison
Approver:Catherine Davies
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation guidance and principles

Note: this harmonised principle is under review.

A recent review of the tenure harmonised principle identified a number of areas in which this principle may benefit from updating to most effectively meet the needs of stakeholders. Over the next few months, the Harmonisation Team will consult with stakeholders on whether and how to update the principle. As part of this, we are keen to hear from housing data users and producers – if that’s you, please get in touch with Catherine Davies ( Please also get in touch if you have any questions about this work, or if you require advice on survey questions to use on this topic.


The following guidance sets out how to collect and report statistics about tenure to ensure statistics about this topic are as comparable as possible across the Government Statistical Service (GSS).


This section provides guidance on the survey questions to use when collecting information about tenure.

Do you (or your household) own or rent this accommodation?

  1. Own it outright
  2. Buying it with the help of a mortgage/loan
  3. Part own and part rent (shared ownership)
  4. Rent it (includes all those who are on Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance)
  5. Live here rent-free (including rent-free in relative’s/friend’s property but excluding squatters)
  6. Squatting

Interviewer instructions:

  • This question is asking for the formal legal tenure of the Household Reference Person (HRP’s) household. If, for example, the HRP is a widow living in a house bought by her son (in his name) who is living elsewhere, she should be coded as living rent-free even though she may regard herself as an owner-occupier. Similarly, a household which is paying a contribution to upkeep but not a formal rent should be coded as rent-free. This could arise, for example, if a parent lived in a granny-flat as a separate household but paid a contribution to general expenses.


Code people as mortgagors ONLY if they have a mortgage for buying their home. Some people who have paid off their mortgage and are effectively outright owners make an arrangement with the lender to continue to pay a small amount of ‘mortgage’ as payment for the lender for keeping the deeds. They should be coded as outright owners.

People who own their home with a lease are counted as owners. It does not matter that they pay ground rent. Similarly people who own their own home under the new Commonhold tenure (see below) are also counted as owners.

 Shared owners

Shared ownership means partly owning (or buying with a mortgage) and partly renting the property, so that, if the person moves, he/she will get some of the proceeds from the sale of the property, according to how much of the original cost has been paid off. Include people who have paid off the mortgage portion. People with shared ownership arrangements are treated as owner-occupiers in the interview. They are not local authority/housing association tenants even if their arrangement is with a local authority/housing association. Owners who pay a service charge but not rent should be counted as owners, not shared owners.

Rent free

People who live rent free do not always regard themselves as doing so, so particular care is needed in dealing with such cases.

The following types of case have caused problems. The correct coding is in brackets:

  • Someone living in a ‘granny-flat’ owned by her son in his name (private renter living rent-free).
  • Someone living in the property of a deceased partner which is held in trust (private renter living rent-free).
  • A divorced/separated woman living in the house owned solely by her ex-partner who no longer lives there (rent-free if owned only in partner’s name; owner if the house is owned in the name of both partners)
  • Sometimes respondents think they live rent-free when they do not e.g. people on full housing benefit who do not pay any rent to the landlord themselves because housing benefit is paid directly by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) formerly the Department of Social Security.

Tied accommodation

People in tied accommodation should be coded here as renters (code 4) or rent-free (code 5), depending on if they pay any rent. This group includes people whose accommodation goes with their job e.g. Church of England employees, caretakers, army personnel, council tenants whose accommodation goes with their job, some farmers. People in tied accommodation are classified as private renters, irrespective of who they are renting from.

Unusual schemes/arrangements

Co-ownership – this is the joint ownership of residential properties (e.g. blocks of flats) by a group of people who have formed a registered co-ownership society. These schemes started in the 1970s but new legislation was passed in the 1980s so that there should not be any more.

Housing co-operatives: code as renting from a housing association (code 4 here, and code 2 at “Who is your landlord?” below)

Commonhold – a new form of land ownership in England and Wales, created by Part 1 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. It combines freehold ownership of a unit in a larger development with membership of a commonhold association that owns and is responsible for the management and upkeep of the common parts of the development. Commonhold is an alternative to long leasehold ownership of flats and other interdependent properties.

Housing Action Trusts – these are set up by local authorities and the properties rented are still owned by local authorities; their tenants are renting from a local authority.

Rents to Mortgages scheme – these are schemes available to council tenants whereby a tenant has the right to buy a share of their home for roughly the same price as the rent. These should be coded as shared owners here and “local authority” at type of landlord (below).

Private Sector Leasing – the Council leases private property for several years and lets it out to tenants. The landlord is the immediate landlord, which is the local authority.

Home Income Plans and Retirement Home Plans – these are where outright owners raise a loan on the security of the house for a regular income. They should be coded as outright owners.

Schemes for Mortgage defaulters – in these cases the property reverts to the lender and a rent is paid instead of a mortgage.


May I check, who personally owns (or is buying) this house/flat?

In the case of shared owners, this relates to the person in this household who owns or is buying the part-share.

  1. Household Reference Person (HRP) (name) only
  2. Partner/spouse of HRP (name) only
  3. HRP (name) and partner/spouse
  4. HRP (name) and someone else (living here or elsewhere)
  5. Someone else who lives here
  6. Someone outside the household

Interviewer instructions:

  • This is a check on the responses to the basic tenure question. One particular group targeted are those who think they live in accommodation as an owner occupier, but where the owner is then revealed (in answer to this question) as a relative who lives somewhere else. In such cases the occupants should have been coded as living rent-free and not as owner occupiers.  (See note under Basic Tenure Question, above)
  • Note: Users for whom housing tenure is not a major feature of their survey may of course choose to omit this question.


Does the accommodation go with the job of anyone in the household?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Interviewer instructions:

  • If the accommodation goes with the job of somebody who is temporarily not a member of the household, code Yes.
  • If the accommodation used to go with the job of someone in the household, but this is no longer the case, code No.


Who is your landlord:

  1. The local authority / council / ALMO / Housing Executive (N Ireland)

Note to interviewer: Tenants in Scotland may continue to refer to Scottish Homes as their landlord – they should also be coded in this group.

  1. A housing association, RSL, charitable trust or Local Housing Company
  2. Employer (organisation) of a household member
  3. Another organisation
  4. Relative/acquaintance of any current household member from before this tenancy started
  5. Employer (individual) of a household member
  6. Another individual private landlord?

Interviewer instructions:

  • If property is let through an agent, the questions refer to the owner not the agent.
  • If the respondent does not know who the landlord is, use code 7 (other private individual) rather than coding “Don’t know”.
  • Code 1 (local authority) includes people renting from Housing Action Trusts. An ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation) is a company set up by an LA to manage and improve all or part of its housing stock. Scottish Homes no longer exists and ‘local authority/council’ is now sufficient to cover all publicly-owned housing in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the Housing Executive is responsible for publicly-owned housing.

Code 2: Nearly all housing associations are now Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) but continue to be known as housing associations. They can be Industrial and Provident Societies, registered charities, or companies.


Soft check

  • You said that the accommodation is rent free and that the landlord is the council. council accommodation is not usually rent free.


Is the accommodation provided?

  1. furnished
  2. partly furnished
  3. or unfurnished?

Interviewer instructions:

  • The category “partly furnished” no longer has any legal significance: any letting which is not explicitly “furnished” will be classified legally as “unfurnished”. We retain “partly furnished” here to ensure that respondents do not mistakenly include lettings with, say, curtains but nothing else provided as “furnished”. However, do not use “partly furnished” simply because the respondent thinks that the furniture is inadequate.
  • Clearly there are infinite variations between the two extremes of what might be included.  If in doubt it may be simplest to record whether the tenant agreed to a furnished, partly furnished or unfurnished tenancy regardless of what combination of fixtures, furnishings and fittings were actually provided by the landlord.


Presentation of outputs

This section provides guidance for outputting the survey questions to use when collecting information about tenure.

Owned outright xxx
Buying with a mortgage/loan * xxx
All Owners XXXX
Social Rented Sector Tenants
Rented from council ** xxx
Rented from a housing association*** xxx
All Social Rented Tenants XXXX
All Rented Privately #
Rented privately unfurnished## xxx
Rented privately furnished xxx
All Rented Privately XXXX
All Tenures XXXXX


*Note: Including shared owners (who own part of the equity and pay part mortgage, part rent)
**Note: “Council” includes local authorities, ALMOs and Scottish Homes and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, but see note #.
***Note: The category includes all housing associations, both registered (also known as Registered Social Landlords – RSLs) and unregistered. Also included in this category are Local Housing Companies.
#Note: All tenants whose accommodation goes with the job of someone in the household are allocated to “rented privately”, even if the landlord is a local authority or housing association or Housing Action Trust, or if the accommodation is rent free. Squatters are also included in this category.
##Note: “Unfurnished” includes the answer: “partly furnished”.


For surveys other than financial surveys, the output categories above will suffice. For financial surveys, an additional category will be needed within “rented privately”:


All Rented Privately #
Rent Free xxx
Other unfurnished ## xxx
Other furnished xxx
All Rented Privately XXXX

Review frequency:

This page will be reviewed annually.



Tenure (PDF, 0.07MB)


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