How to apply for council housing

Who can join the housing register

You need to be a British or Irish citizen or meet the immigration conditions.

You're likely to meet the immigration conditions if you're settled here. For example, if you have settled status under the EU settlement scheme or indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Check the immigration and residence conditions if you are not sure.

Councils have different rules

Most councils have local rules about who can join their housing register.

These rules are explained in a document called the allocation policy.

This document is on your council's website. Allocation policies can be long but the council must provide a summary of the rules if you ask for one.

Find your council's website on GOV.UK and search for 'housing'

Who must be allowed onto the housing register

By law, the following groups of people must be allowed to apply:

  • people who count as legally homeless

  • people living in overcrowded accommodation or very bad housing conditions

  • people who need to move because of a disability, medical, welfare or hardship reasons

In some areas, only these groups of people may able to go on the register.

The council could still refuse to allow you onto the housing register if you fall into one of these groups. For example, they may be able to exclude people with a history of antisocial behaviour even if they are homeless.

Other rules your council might have

There are some common rules that your council might have about who can join the register.

Residence or local connection rules

Some councils say that you must have lived or worked in the area for a certain time.

These rules should not apply in the following situations:

  • you're in a refuge or temporary housing because of domestic abuse

  • you've left the armed forces within the last 5 years

  • you're the bereaved wife, husband or civil partner of someone in the forces and you have to leave forces accommodation

Rent arrears 

Some councils will not let you on the housing register if you have rent arrears, especially if you still owe money to the council.

If you can agree with your council to pay off some or all of your arrears over time they may let you on the register. Make sure you can afford the repayments.

You may get rejected when you first apply. If you do, ask for a review and speak to the council about a repayment agreement.

Antisocial behaviour

Many councils exclude people who have been involved in antisocial behaviour, especially if this led to an eviction. 

You may still be able to join if you can show that your behaviour has changed, for example if you are using any support services.

You may also be able to join if the person responsible for the behaviour has left your household.


Homeowners are often excluded from the housing register.

There can be exceptions. For example, you may be able to join if you:

  • need sheltered or supported accommodation

  • can't live in your home following a relationship breakdown

  • live in an unsuitable or overcrowded property and can't improve the conditions

If the council say you cannot go on the register

The council should write to you with their decision about your housing register application.

You can ask for a review of the decision if you're told you do not qualify.

Find out how to get a review of a council waiting list decision.

Last updated: 20 June 2023

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