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Getting a council home

This advice applies to Wales

You can apply for a home through your local council. They might also call it ‘social housing’ or ‘renting from a community landlord’. Community landlords include councils and housing associations.

If your application is accepted, you’ll go on to a waiting list of people who need a council home. Your council will then prioritise applications based on who needs a home most urgently. The council’s allocations scheme will give details of who gets priority for homes in the area.

Even if you get on the waiting list there’s no guarantee you’ll get a home.

You could be offered a home owned by your local council or housing association.

You might have to apply to some housing associations directly instead of through the council - ask your council if there are any near you.

If your council has a long waiting list, they might ask if you want to apply for homes in other areas as well. You can be on several waiting lists at the same time and this might increase your chances of getting a home.

If you have nowhere to stay tonight

Your council might have a legal duty to help you find accommodation. You can find out more about finding accommodation.

Check if you can apply for a council home

Your local council will have its own rules on who can apply and who has priority for homes - this is called an ‘allocation scheme’. Check your council’s website on GOV.UK to find out how it works in your area.

You’re unlikely to be offered a council home if you or someone you live with has a history of serious unacceptable behaviour.

Some examples of serious unacceptable behaviour are:

  • owing a large amount of rent arrears
  • being a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours
  • abusing someone
  • breaking certain rules of a written statement

You’ll also need to show you’re ‘eligible’ for council housing.

To check if you’re eligible, start by checking if your immigration status lets you apply for council housing.

If you’ve moved or returned to the UK in the last 2 years, you usually also have to show you’re ‘habitually resident’. You have to do this even if you’re a British citizen.

Your immigration status lets you apply for council housing if you:

  • are a British or Irish citizen
  • have settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme
  • have indefinite leave to remain - unless someone had to sign a ‘maintenance undertaking’ that says they’ll support you financially
  • have refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • have right of abode
  • have leave to remain in the UK as a ‘stateless person’

If you have pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme, you can only apply for council housing if you have a ‘right to reside’..

If you’ve applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and you’re waiting for a decision, you can only apply for council housing if you have a right to reside.

Check if you have a right to reside.

If you’ve come from Ukraine

You're allowed to apply for council housing if all of the following are true:

  • you were living in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022
  • you left Ukraine because of the invasion
  • it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

You don't have to show you're habitually resident.

If you’ve come from Afghanistan

In some situations you’re allowed to apply for council housing - and you don’t have to show you’re habitually resident.

You’re allowed to apply if you came to the UK through one of these schemes at any time:

  • the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
  • the Afghanistan Locally Employed Staff Ex-Gratia Scheme (ALES)
  • the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

You're also allowed to apply if all of the following are true:

  • you came to the UK from Afghanistan because of the fall of the government on 15 August 2021
  • you’ve been given ‘leave to remain’
  • it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ on your immigration papers

Talk to an adviser if you have a sponsor, or if you’re not sure about your immigration status.

Your local council might ask you to prove your immigration status. You’ll need to show one of the following:

  • a document showing you have come to the UK through one of the schemes
  • a stamp or visa in your passport
  • a letter from the Home Office that shows when you arrived and why

Before you try to get a council home, talk to an adviser.

If you’ve come from Sudan

You’re allowed to apply for council housing if all of the following are true:

  • you were living in Sudan immediately before 15 April 2023
  • you left Sudan because of the violence
  • it doesn’t say ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

Talk to an adviser if you have a sponsor, or if you’re not sure about your immigration status.

You can’t apply for council housing if:

  • you don’t have a right to be in the UK
  • you’re in the UK as a visitor
  • you’re seeking asylum
  • it says ‘no public funds’ or ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your immigration documents

Check if you’re habitually resident

You’re habitually resident if you can show that the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home. 

You’ll only have to show you’re habitually resident if you’ve moved or returned to the UK in the last 2 years.

Check if you’re habitually resident.

If you have pre-settled status or you’re waiting for a decision from the EU Settlement Scheme

You don’t need to show you’re habitually resident if you have a right to reside because:

  • you’re a worker - this includes if you’ve retained worker status
  • you’re a self-employed person - this includes if you’ve retained self-employed status
  • you’re the family member of a worker or self-employed person
  • you’ve retired - or you’re the family member of someone who retired
  • you can’t work any more because of illness or an accident - or you’re the family member of someone in that position

You still have to show you’re habitually resident if you have another type of right to reside, for example a permanent right to reside based on 5 years in the UK.

If you’re not sure which right to reside you have, you can check the rules about the right to reside for housing.

Find out if you’re a priority for a home

You’re more likely to get a council home if you’ve been given priority by your council's allocation scheme.

This could be if you’re:

  • legally homeless or the council has a duty to find you accommodation if you’re homeless - check what help the council should give you
  • moving because of a disability or serious, long-term health condition
  • moving to a different area because of ‘hardship' - this could be to get medical treatment, because you’re in danger or to take up a new job
  • in a home that’s overcrowded or in poor condition

It’s likely to take you a long time to get an offer - even if you get priority in your area. In areas with long waiting lists, you might not be offered a home at all.

It might be best to look for a home yourself or stay where you are - if you’re struggling with money, check if you can get help with your rent.

You can also find out more about renting from a private landlord.

If you think you haven’t been given enough priority, you can ask your council to review their decision. Check your council's allocation scheme to see who's given priority in your area.

Applying for a council home

You’ll probably need to apply online - check which council you need to apply to on GOV.UK.

If the council accepts your application, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a home straight away. You’ll go on a waiting list and it could still take a long time.

If you’re applying directly to a housing association the rules might be different - check their process on their website.

Filling in the application

Give as much detail as you can in your application. You might be asked to give extra evidence to support your application - like medical notes if you have a health condition.

Your council will use the information you give them to decide if you’re eligible to join the waiting list. If your application’s accepted, they’ll then use it to decide if you get priority and what size home you should get.

You might need to give details of:

  • your income, including from your job or benefits
  • any long-term health conditions or disabilities you have
  • your job history
  • your savings and any assets you have - this is an item that’s worth a lot of money, for example a car
  • where you’ve lived for the last few years and why you left
  • any visas or immigration documents (like a passport), if you’re not from the UK

If you need help with your application

You’ll need to answer a lot of questions in the application form and it could take more than an hour to complete. Talk to your local council if you need help.

You might be able to get a family member or carer to help with your application too.

Getting your decision

If your application is accepted, your council will put you in a group or ‘band’ that reflects your level of priority.

If they think you need a home urgently, you’ll usually be given a high priority.

You could still have a long wait for a home even if you have high priority. Ask your local council to find out how long the wait is in your area.

Your council decides your level of priority using the criteria in their allocations scheme.

If you don’t think they’ve given you the right level of priority under their scheme, you can ask them to review it. Check your council’s allocation scheme before you ask for a review.

If your application is refused

Ask the council to review their decision.

You can also find out more about renting from a private landlord or getting help with your rent.

If your situation changes

If your situation changes, tell your council as soon as possible - it might change your position on the waiting list.

This could mean you’ll get a home more quickly, but it also could move you down the list.

If you don't tell the council about changes that affect your level of priority, you could be accused of lying on your application. This could mean you'd be evicted from any home you get.

You should let your council know if you:

  • become pregnant or have another child
  • develop a new medical condition or your medical needs change
  • have a change in income - this could be if your benefits stop or your salary changes
  • are being harassed where you live
  • move house or have other new contact details

Check if you can bid for a home

Ask your council if you have to bid for homes or if they’ll pick one for you.

If they choose one for you, they could offer it by phone. They'll usually follow it up with a letter.

Bidding for a home

Your local council might have an online system where you can look for a home.

If you like a home and it’s suitable for you, you can let the council know you’re interested by applying for it online - this is called ‘bidding’. Your council will tell you how their bidding system works.

The homes will all have a closing date, so make sure you bid before then.

If you’ve bid for a home, it doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

Your council will tell you how often you can bid for homes. They might also set a limit on how many homes you can bid for.

Once the bidding period has closed, your council will look at your level of priority and usually how long you’ve been waiting.

The council will usually offer the home to the person who has the highest level of priority in their scheme.

You might be able to refuse a council home if you don't think it's suitable for your needs, but it’s important to check - some councils might remove you from their waiting list. Find out more about refusing an unsuitable home.

If you’re offered a council home

Your council will tell you how long you have to accept or reject an offer
- you’ll usually only have a short time before your council offers it to someone else.

If you decide to accept a home, your council will arrange a time for you to sign the contract.

You could be offered a secure contract or an introductory standard contract for a year or more.

Your council will tell you when you can move in and when you have to pay rent.

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