How to apply for council housing
How long does it take to get a council home?
Councils use bands or points based systems to decide who gets priority for a home.
The council tells you what priority you have if they accept you onto the register.
If you ask for this information, the council must tell you about your chances of getting a home and how long it's likely to take.
Waiting times depend on:
your priority band or points
how many homes are available
the number of people on the waiting list with higher priority than you
how flexible you can be about the type of property and areas you will live in
There is a shortage of council and housing association homes in most areas.
You could be on the register for months or sometimes years even if you're in a priority group. You might not get a home if you are low priority.
Find out about other housing options while you're on the waiting list.
Check if you're in a priority group
Your council's allocation policy sets out who gets priority on the waiting list.
By law, some groups of people must get 'reasonable preference'. This means people in these groups must get some priority for council and housing association homes.
You must be given reasonable preference if you:
are homeless or fleeing violence
live in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions
need to move for health or welfare reasons
Some councils also give some priority or points to other groups. For example, people who need rehousing because of local regeneration schemes.
If you are or become homeless
The council must give you some priority on the housing register if you are legally homeless.
This includes when you're at risk of domestic abuse or violence in your home.
It applies to homeless families as well as single people or couples without children.
Living in overcrowded conditions
You could be classed as overcrowded if you do not have a separate bedroom for:
each single adult aged 21 or over
2 young people aged 10 to 20 of the same sex
2 children under 10 of any sex
This is called the bedroom standard.
Some councils use a different legal measure of overcrowding, called statutory overcrowding.
Living in very bad or dangerous conditions
You will get more priority for council housing if your home:
needs urgent repairs or is in a very bad condition
is unsanitary - for example, has bad drains or sewerage problems
lacks basic washing and cooking facilities
You get more points or a higher band if the council decides your home is in such bad condition that it is dangerous or a health risk.
If you're renting privately, contact the environmental health team at the council. An inspection and report from environmental health could increase your priority.
Need to move for health or welfare reasons
You must get some priority if you need to move for health or welfare reasons.
For example, if you or anyone in your household needs:
sheltered housing for older people
supported housing because of a learning disability
adapted or accessible housing because of a physical disability
a larger home because you're a foster carer or looking after someone else's children
You should tell the council if:
mobility problems make it difficult to get around your home
a physical or mental health condition is made worse by where you live
a doctor, healthcare worker or social worker can support your application
If you need to live in a particular area
You should get some priority if you need to live in an area to avoid hardship.
For example if:
your child attends a special school locally
you need to be close to a relative to give or receive care
you're leaving care and need to be close to your support
Members of the armed forces
By law, you must be given 'additional preference' on the waiting list if you're in any of the situations above and any of the following apply:
you have previously served in the regular armed forces
you are in the regular or reserve forces and are seriously injured, ill or disabled because of your service
you must leave forces accommodation after the death in service of your husband, wife or civil partner
This should mean that you will be offered a council or housing association home quickly.
Other urgent housing needs
Your council may also give extra priority to some people with very urgent housing needs.
For example, if you need to move because of:
a life threatening illness or sudden disability
overcrowding or disrepair which puts your health at serious risk
violence or threats, including domestic abuse, witness intimidation or serious antisocial behaviour
If you're not in a priority group
You may still get a council or housing association home but it will probably take longer.
Many councils give extra priority based on how long you’ve been on the register.
Some give extra priority to people with a good tenancy record, working people or those doing voluntary work.
If you're on the housing register for a long time the council will sometimes send you a form to check you want to stay on the waiting list. Always reply to keep your place on the list.
Last updated: 4 June 2023