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How to apply for council housing

How long it takes to get a council home

There are not enough 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.

How long you have to wait depends on:

  • your priority band or points

  • how many homes are available

  • how many people on the waiting list have higher priority than you

  • how flexible you are about the type of property and areas you can live in

The council must tell you about your chances of getting a home and how long it's likely to take if you ask them.

The council might send you a form asking if you want to stay on the housing register if you've been waiting a long time.

Always reply to keep your place on the waiting list.

Example: Waiting times for council housing in different areas

Nicole and her son live in temporary housing in Newcastle. Jon and his son live in temporary housing in Bristol.

Both families need a 2 bedroom home.

They are both in a priority band on the housing register in their city.

Waiting times in Newcastle are a lot shorter than in Bristol.

Nicole gets an offer after 6 months. But Jon has to wait over 2 years, even though they have the same priority and a similar need for housing.

Check if you can get more priority

You could get a council house quicker if you have more priority on the waiting list.

You could get more priority if:

  • your situation changes, for example, you have a new medical condition

  • the council made a mistake and gave you the wrong band or points

Find out how to move up the council housing waiting list.

Options while you're on the waiting list

You might need to think about other options.

It's probably best to stay where you are if you already rent from a council or housing association but you're waiting for a transfer.

Rent privately

Renting from a private landlord or a letting agent is the quickest way to move for most people.

Private rents are higher and you can be evicted more easily.

Your priority on the waiting list could go down if you can find somewhere suitable to rent privately. For example, if you're overcrowded while staying with family but then find your own private place.

Read our advice on how to find a landlord who accepts benefits.

You could get help with a deposit or rent in advance.

Apply to other councils

You can join more than one waiting list. Some areas offer housing quicker.

Most councils give priority to people who have a connection to the area. For example, if you have close family living there.

Apply to housing associations

Some housing associations have their own waiting list.

Search online for housing associations in your area and check how to apply on their websites.

Apply as homeless

You can ask the council for help if you're homeless or could be in the next 8 weeks.

They must look into your situation and help you find somewhere to live.

Complain about the council's service

You can make a complaint about:

  • long delays

  • staff who are rude

  • poor communication

  • the council not following the law

Find out how to make a complaint.

Last updated: 7 April 2024

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