How to apply for council housing

Follow these steps to apply for council housing.

Choose which council to apply to

Most people can apply to go on their local council’s housing waiting list.

You can apply to any council. Some councils don't allow some people who don’t have a local connection to the area to go on their waiting list.

Even if you are allowed to go on the waiting list you may be given less priority than local people.

Having a local connection usually means that you have lived in an area for a length of time.

Check with different councils before you apply. You may qualify for the waiting list in one area but not another because councils allocations rules vary.  

Find out about council housing allocation policies

You can apply to more than one council and you can be on several lists at the same time (as long as you qualify).

Waiting lists may be shorter in some areas.

Check the rules

Most people living in the UK can apply for a council home.

Your immigration status may mean you are not eligible.

Ask the council how to apply

Most councils have online application forms on their website.

You can also contact the council directly for an application form.

Ask for help to make an application if you need it. 

Include relevant information

The information you include on your application form helps the council decide:

The application form should allow you to explain in detail any special needs, difficulties or problems you or your family have. For example, if you have mobility problems.

You should also be able to include relevant information about overcrowding, disrepair, medical problems or disability, violence or harassment. 

If you have medical or welfare needs, you may need to get letters from your doctor or other health professionals to support your application.

Tell the council where you want to live

The application form may ask you to select which parts of the council’s area you want to live. Choosing more areas gives you a better chance of getting a council or housing association home.

Some councils run choice based lettings schemes. This means you bid for properties that are advertised by the council..

Other councils offer properties directly

If the council makes you a suitable offer, you could be suspended from the waiting list for a period if you refuse it.

Make a joint application

Married couples, civil partners or people living together can make joint applications.

You can't apply jointly if one of you isn't eligible for council housing. The eligible person can still apply. The other person could be included as a household member.

Get help from the council

Councils must help you with your application if you find it difficult to complete it. For example, if English isn't your first language or you find reading difficult.

Get help from a local advice centre if the council refuses to help or you are not happy with the way the council deals with your application.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice service in your area.

Keep your application up to date

Once you're on the housing waiting list you must tell the council if your circumstances change. For example if you have a new child or move home. 

Changes in your circumstances can affect your priority on the waiting list or the type of housing you can be considered for.

Some councils contact you each year to ask if you still want to be on the waiting list. Your name may be removed from the list if you don't reply.

If your application is refused

If the council decides not to accept your application to go on its waiting list, it must write to you and explain the legal reasons for its decision.

Get advice immediately because you can ask the council to review its decision.

You may also be able to reapply if your circumstances change.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice service in your area.


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