How to apply for council housing

Bidding and offers

Councils offer homes to people on the housing register through choice based letting schemes or as a direct offer.

The main difference is that with choice based lettings you must express an interest in a property to have a chance of being offered it.

With direct offers, the council finds a suitable property for you.

Ask your council which type of scheme they use. Some councils use both.

How to bid with a choice based letting scheme

You will have to look at properties on the council website or at the housing office.

You need to tell the council if you're interested in a property. You usually do this through your online account, or you can speak to your housing officer.

This is often called 'bidding'.

Some councils only allow you to bid for a certain number of properties at once. You must meet any criteria for the property.

If you're homeless

Your council might bid for suitable properties on your behalf if you're legally homeless. This is sometimes called proxy bidding. Alternatively they might make you a direct offer.

If you're disabled 

If you need support, the council must:

  • help you with the bidding process

  • provide information in an accessible format such as Braille or audio

What happens after you bid for a tenancy?

Other people may bid on the property too. The council then looks at everyone's banding or points to decide who should be offered the home first.

The person with the most priority on the housing register usually gets to say if they want it or not first.

If they turn it down, it will be offered to the person with the next highest priority.

Direct offers

You have to wait for an offer if your council uses direct offers.

Some councils only make one offer but you could get more from other councils. Check your local council's policy.

You should not be offered a property in an area that puts you at risk of domestic abuse or racial harassment.

Refusing an offer of council housing

It's risky to turn down an offer of a council or housing association home.

The council could remove or suspend you from the list or give you less priority if their policy allows this.

You can ask the council to withdraw the offer and make another one if you think it is unsuitable. Some councils have their own review process for this. If the council refuses to make another offer you could use the complaints procedure.

Do not turn down a council or housing association tenancy if you're homeless. The council could end any temporary housing and may not offer you another property.

You should accept the offer and ask for a review if you think it's unsuitable.

Find out about final offers of housing if you're homeless

Last updated: 27 June 2023

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help