Who can apply for council housing?

Councils make their own rules about who can apply for council housing. But they must follow what the law says.

Apply for a council house

Who councils must allow on the waiting list

The law says that councils must allow some categories of people to apply for a council or housing association home. These are people who:

The law also says that some people from abroad are not eligible for council housing.

Information about who can apply

Full details about who can apply are published in each council's allocation policy.

Local connection requirements

Many councils say you must have lived in the local area for a certain period before you can apply for council housing. There should always be exceptions to this rule.

You might meet your council's local connection rules if you work locally or have close family who are settled in the area.

No local connection needed

You don't need a local connection if you are:

  • serving in the armed forces or have left the forces within the last five years
  • suffering from a serious injury, illness or disability caused by your service as a reservist
  • a bereaved spouse or civil partner and you have to leave forces accommodation following the death of your partner in service

You may not need a local connection if you are:

  • moving to the area to work or a social tenant in another area who wants to downsize to a smaller home
  • fleeing violence or abuse
  • placed in the area by another council following a homeless application or because you were in care
  • needing support to reintegrate into a community because you have spent a long time in prison or in hospital

Rent arrears and other debts

A council may exclude you if you have previous rent arrears or other debts, especially if you still owe money to the council.

Some councils let you apply if you can show you can pay off your debts in affordable instalments.

The council may also make other exceptions, for example if your debts were caused by severe financial hardship in circumstances outside your control.

Antisocial behaviour

You could be excluded from the housing waiting list if you have been involved in antisocial behaviour. For example, if you were evicted from a previous tenancy because you or a member of your household caused a nuisance.

You may need to show that your behaviour has changed or that the person responsible for the antisocial behaviour is no longer part of your household.

Earnings and assets

Some councils might not consider you for a council or housing association home if you earn over a certain amount or have assets over a threshold.

Check your council's housing allocation scheme or ask your council for details.

Home owners

Home owners are usually excluded from the housing waiting list.

There are exceptions. You may be able to apply if for example you:

  • are an older person in need of sheltered accommodation
  • can't occupy your home because your relationship broke down and you can't sell because your former partner won't move
  • live in an overcrowded home and are unable to buy a bigger place

If the council says you can't apply

You may be able to challenge the council's decision if it turns down your application or does not give you enough priority.

Check the local policy carefully. It will be published on the council website or available to view at the local office.

Use the Gov.uk council finder to find your local council website

Help from an adviser

If you are homeless you might be entitled to legal aid to help you challenge a housing register decision.

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 4 345 to see if you qualify

If you can't get legal aid, a local housing adviser may still be able to help.

Use Shelter's directory to find local advice


Last updated 03 Nov 2016 | © Shelter

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Was this advice helpful?

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact #########

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Please contact website@shelter.org.uk