Who gets priority for council housing

Councils decide who gets priority for local council housing. Some people get priority by law.

You must meet immigration conditions to be eligible to apply.

Who gets priority

The council's housing allocation policy sets out who gets priority on the waiting list.

You must be given some priority or ‘reasonable preference’ if you:

  • are homeless or fleeing violence
  • live in overcrowded or very bad housing conditions
  • need to move because of a health problem or disability

You can usually find the allocations scheme on your council's website or at the housing office.

If you are homeless

The council must give you some preference on the housing register if you are legally homeless.

Living in poor conditions

You are entitled to some priority for council housing if your home:

  • is in serious disrepair
  • is unsanitary - for example, has bad drains or sewerage problems
  • lacks basic washing and cooking facilities

There is usually a scale of priority for poor conditions.

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.

Living in overcrowded conditions

You must also get some preference if your home is officially overcrowded.

Some councils use a more generous measure called the ‘bedroom standard’.

Under this measure, you’re classed as overcrowded unless there is a bedroom in your home for each:

  • adult couple
  • single adult aged 21 or over
  • pair of adolescents aged 10 to 20 of the same sex
  • pair of children under 10 of any sex

Check your council’s policy to see what measure of overcrowding they use.

Disability or a medical condition

You must get some priority if you need to move on medical grounds.

For example, if anyone in your household has:

  • physical or mental health problems that are made worse by where you live
  • mobility problems that make it difficult to get around your home

When you apply, give the council details of:

  • how your health problems are affected by where you live
  • difficulties the medical condition or disability causes
  • any doctor, health worker or social worker who can support your application

If you need to live in a particular area

You should get some priority if you need to live in a particular area to avoid hardship.

This may include if:

  • someone in your household attends a special school locally
  • you're leaving care and need to be close to your support
  • you need to be close to a relative who can look after you

You can also get some priority if you need to be in an area to look after a close relative with health problems.

Extra priority

If you have served in the armed forces

The council must give you extra priority if you're homeless or have urgent housing needs and either you:

  • were in the regular armed forces
  • are seriously injured, ill or disabled because of your service
  • have to leave forces accommodation after the death in service of your spouse or civil partner

Urgent housing needs

The council can 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

How long it takes to get a council home

Ask the council about your chances of getting a home and how long this will take.

Waiting times depend on:

  • your priority
  • how many council and housing association homes are available
  • your flexibility about the type of property and areas you will live in

Many councils give additional points 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.

The scheme must give reasonable preference to those in the most housing need.


Last updated 26 Apr 2019 | © Shelter

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