Council housing: immigration and habitual residence conditions

All councils have a housing register or waiting list for people who want to apply for a council or housing association home in the area.

You must meet immigration and residence conditions to go on the housing register. The conditions are sometimes called the eligibility rules or the habitual residence test. 

You might not be able to join the waiting list even if you meet the conditions. This is because each council also has their own local rules.

Who qualifies

You're usually eligible to apply for council housing if you have:

  • British or Irish citizenship

  • indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

  • settled status under the EU settlement scheme

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • right of abode as a Commonwealth citizen

You must be 'habitually resident' unless you have refugee status or humanitarian protection.

Habitual residence: what is it?

You must be living in the Common Travel Area - the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man - for the foreseeable future.

The council might ask you more about this if you've lived abroad in the last 2 years.

If you've lived abroad in the last 2 years

Most people are accepted as habitually resident within 3 months of arrival in the UK.

Sometimes you can qualify as soon as you arrive. For example, if:

  • you were living in Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man

  • you are deported or removed from another country

  • you lived here before and have returned to resettle

You can show an intention to resettle by looking for work, arranging school places and registering with a GP.

You must also meet any local rules to join the housing register.

Pre-settled status (EU settlement scheme)

If you have pre-settled status, you have to meet extra conditions to apply for council housing.

You must show that you're in one of the following situations:

  • working or self employed

  • looking for work after working in the UK

  • can't work temporarily due to ill health after working in the UK

  • late stages of pregnancy and expect to return to work or looking for work within a year

  • recently given birth and expect to return to work or looking for work within a year

  • legally resident for at least 5 years

You might also be eligible if a child who lives with you is at school in the UK.

Your child must have lived in the UK while you or their other parent was an EU worker. You don't need to be working now.

These extra conditions don't apply if you have settled status under the EU settlement scheme.

What does 'no recourse to public funds' mean?

You can't apply for council housing if your immigration status means you have 'no recourse to public funds' in the UK. It means you can't usually get help with housing or benefits while you're living here.

This restriction affects most people from abroad including overseas students, work permit holders, people on partner visas, visitors and some other types of limited leave to remain.

If you've applied for asylum in the UK, you can't go on the council housing register but you may qualify for asylum support.

What if the council make a mistake?

The council must write to you if they decide you can't go on the housing register. They must give reasons why they think you don't qualify.

You can ask for a review if you think the council are wrong. For example, if you're an EU citizen with pre-settled status who meets the extra conditions.

If you're a returning resident but the council say you're not yet habitually resident, it's sometimes easier just to wait a few months and reapply when you can show you that you have resettled in the UK.

How to ask for a review

The council should tell you about their review process including any time limits. For example, you may have to ask for a review within 3 weeks of getting the council's decision letter.

You may need to provide the council with more information. For example, if you are working and have pre-settled status you may need to show proof of your income.

It often takes up to 2 months for the council to carry out a review. The council must write to you with their final decision.

Need immigration advice?

Get immigration advice before applying for council housing if you're unsure of your immigration status or don't have the documents to prove it.

Last updated: 2 December 2021

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