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How to get a council home

Who can join the housing register

You need to meet immigration and residence conditions to join the housing register.

You're likely to meet these conditions if, for example, you have refugee status, EU settled status or indefinite leave to remain (ILR). 

Look at your council's allocations policy

Each council has their own rules about who can join the waiting list.

The rules are explained in a document called an allocations policy.

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

Ask the council for a copy of the allocations policy if you cannot find it on their website.

Allocations policies are often long but some councils publish a summary.

People who can go on the waiting list

You can usually join the housing register if you:

  • count as being legally homeless

  • live in overcrowded or very bad conditions

  • need to move because of a disability or medical reason

  • need to move to care for a relative

  • are leaving care or the armed forces

In some areas only people in situations like these can join the waiting list.

Sometimes you might not get on the housing register even if you are in one of these groups. For example, you are homeless but have a history of antisocial behaviour.

Residence or local connection rules

Many councils say that you must live or work in the area for a set time before you can go on the waiting list.

The council cannot say this if you've moved to the area because of domestic abuse.

These rules also cannot be used if you:

  • are in the regular armed forces or have been in the last 5 years

  • are disabled, seriously injured or ill because you were in the reserve forces

  • have to leave armed forces housing because your married or civil partner has died while serving

Residence rules must not break equality law

For example, a council said only people who had lived in the area for 10 years could join the waiting list.

But the Court of Appeal said this was discrimination against Travellers and refugees.

Rent arrears 

The council might not let you go on the housing register if you have a history of rent arrears. This is more likely if you owe rent to the council.

But the council might let you join if you agree to deal with your rent arrears over time.

Antisocial behaviour

You may not get on the list if you have been involved in antisocial behaviour,

But you could still join if you can show that your behaviour has changed. For example, if you are using any support services.

You could also join if the person responsible for the behaviour has left your household.


Homeowners often cannot join the housing register.

But you could join if you:

  • need sheltered or supported accommodation

  • cannot live in your home after a relationship breakdown

  • live in an unsuitable or overcrowded property and you cannot fix things

If the council say you cannot go on the register

The council should write to tell you their decision.

Find out how to challenge a council waiting list decision.

Last updated: 8 April 2024

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