Who is eligible to apply for council housing?

Eligibility for council housing depends on your nationality, immigration status and if you've recently lived abroad.

Apply for a council house

What does eligibility mean?

The council can't allow you onto its housing waiting list or housing register if you are not eligible.

Most people are eligible but some people from abroad are not.

British citizens

You are eligible to apply for council housing if you are a British citizen living in the UK and you have not lived abroad recently.

Each council has its own local rules about who qualifies to go on the housing register in its area.

British citizens who have been living abroad

If you are British, the council can only provide housing for you if you live in the UK.

This is called the habitual residence test.

To assess if you're habitually resident in the UK, the council considers:

  • where you live and work
  • where your family or friends are
  • the reasons why you have come to live in the area
  • where you intend to live in future
  • if you had been habitually resident in the UK in the past

You may be affected by the habitual residence test if you are a British citizen who has been living outside the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man for some time.

If you are not eligible to apply for council housing immediately, you may qualify after you've been back in the UK for a few months.

People with a long-term or indefinite right to stay

You may be eligible for council housing if you normally live in the UK and you:

  • are a worker from the European Economic Area (EEA) (the EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein)
  • are a self employed EEA worker or a member of an EEA worker's family
  • have indefinite leave to remain in the UK (settled status)
  • have refugee status
  • have exceptional leave to remain, discretionary leave or humanitarian protection, as long as your immigration status doesn't specify that you should have no recourse to public funds

People with a short term or limited right to stay

You are not allowed to apply for council housing if you are from abroad, subject to UK immigration control and have a short-term or limited right to stay.

You won't be eligible if you have a visit visa or student visa or your conditions of stay specify that you have no recourse to public funds.

Asylum seekers don't qualify for council housing. You may be able to claim asylum support.

If you have children, a disability or special support needs, you may be able to get help from council social services.

People with no right to stay

You can't apply for a council home if you entered the UK unlawfully and have not been granted any leave to remain here or if you have overstayed your visa.

People from abroad applying for a transfer

Regardless of your nationality or immigration status, you can apply for a transfer to another council or housing association home if you already have:

How councils allocate housing

If you are eligible to apply find out more about the rules for how councils allocate housing.

If the council says you can't apply

You can ask the council to review its decision if it says you're not eligible to go on the housing register.

A housing adviser could help you with this.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice service

Need immigration advice?

If you are not sure about your immigration status, get advice from an immigration solicitor or an immigration adviser registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner. You'll probably have to pay for this advice.

Get advice before you apply for benefits, council housing or help as a homeless person.


Last updated 05 Oct 2016 | © Shelter

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