How To Apply for a Council House

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It can be difficult knowing what to do if you want to apply for a council house. Am I eligible? How long does it take? How do I even make the council house application? In this guide, we take you through the entire process so you know what to do and expect!

What Is a Council House?


A council house is affordable housing that is owned by a local council. They are usually reserved for people and families on no or low income, and have lower rents because they are subsidised by the local authorities. There are also council estates which have communities of council housing together with shops and parking.

Council housing began in 1919 and has been a prominent part of the public housing history in the UK. Each local council has its own rules and requirements for different council houses and sometimes it can take a long time!

Check out our How To Rent guide!

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Who Can Apply for a Council House?

Each local council has its own requirements for who can apply for a council house. You will usually have to be over 18, although there are some councils that will offer housing to over 16s too. In general, you will need to be:

  1. On no or low income
  2. Have a local connection to the area

What is a local connection? You’ll have a local connection to an area if you’ve lived there for a number or years, or you have a job or family there. Needing a local connection is not universal for all local councils, so if you’re moving home, you should double check your local council’s requirements. You might also be able to apply for a council house if you’ve lived in the area before.

How Can I Get Priority for a Council House?

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If you meet certain circumstances that make you eligible for higher priority in getting a council house, you’ll be put on the local council’s allocation scheme. This means that the local council will need to assess your situation in order to give you priority.

You’re more likely to get priority for a council house if you’re:

  1. Homeless
  2. Living in overcrowded accommodation
  3. In a medical condition made worse by where you live
  4. In a vulnerable or violent situation

You can also receive higher priority if you are homeless and were in the armed forces.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Council House?


If you have a successful council house application, you are then placed on the housing register or waiting list. There are often hundreds of applicants every year to a very limited number of council houses that are available. This means you could be waiting a long time in order to get your council house!

How Are Waiting Lists Ordered for Council Houses to Rent?

The housing register waiting lists are generally in order of urgency. Local councils either use a points system or bands in order to determine who has the higher urgency and who will be allocated a council house sooner.

For example, Hammersmith & Fulham Council places people into one of three different bands and gives estimated times based on their housing needs. Band 1 is the highest priority and Band 3 is the lowest.

Council House Waiting Times Example
Property Size Band 1 Band 2 Band 3
1 Bedroom (Studio) 11-13 months 11-15 months 11-16 months
2 Bedrooms 12-16 months 18-44 months 38-50 months
3 Bedrooms 12-25 months 22-60 months 50-67 months
4+ Bedrooms 36-70 months 32-70 months 50-70 months
Sheltered 12-14 months 11-32 months 15-26 months

Source: Hammersmith & Fulham Council Website

This is to give an idea of the waiting times and other council areas it can be higher or lower. In some cases, it can take up to 10 years in order to get housing. If you have been waiting this long, you might have to reapply in order to get back on the register.

A council house is not a guarantee! Even if your application is successful, it is not a guarantee that you will receive a council house. If you are applying for a council house in an area that has longer waiting lists, you might not receive a place at all!

Can I Bid on a Council House?

Some local councils will have a bidding process for applicants to indicate which council house properties they are interested in from a list that shows when the property was made available and what type of property it is. This is also known as choice-based letting.

Although it’s referred to as bidding, you don’t use any money. However, some councils limit the amount of bids you can make so it's possible to only be able to make 3 bids on a single cycle.

How Do I Fill In a Council House Application?

pen over application

In 2022, you will need to fill in the council house application online. You’ll be able to find the links for the council house applications on the local council website. Alternatively, you can go to the council housing section on the government website and type in your postcode to find the right local council.

What Do I Write for the Council House Application?

You should provide the council with as much information as possible about your situation in order to give yourself the best chance of getting a council house. You should include key information such as:

  1. Income
    You should include any money you get from working or from your benefits so the council can better understand your financial situation.
  2. Job History
    Give details about your working history including what roles you have done in the past and what you are currently doing for work.
  3. Health problems and Disabilities
    Provide detailed explanation if you have long-term health or medical problems, or if you have a disability. You also include some of your medical history.
  4. Savings and Valuables
    Include information about your savings and any valuable possession you have. For example if you have a car, you should state that on your council house application.
  5. Living History
    Let the council know where you’ve been living and why you left. If you’ve lived in the area that you’re applying in before, let them know so you can prove a local connection!
  6. Documentation
    If you are not a UK national, remember to provide information about your visa and passport.

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What Do I Do If I Get a Council House Offer?


When a council house property becomes available, the local council will review the housing register and decide who will get a council house based on the priority of the applicants. If you are successful, the council will contact you with an offer of the council house.

Since there are usually so many applicants, you will only have a small window to accept the council house offer before it is offered to someone else! If you do accept the offer, the council will arrange the next steps regarding the tenancy agreement:

  • Time for you to sign the contract
  • Whether you are offered a long-term or fixed-term contract
  • When you move
  • When you pay your rent each month

Do I have to accept a council house offer? If you reject a council house offer, there is a chance you are either taken off the list or given lower priority. If you refuse an offer on the grounds that it’s unsuitable, local councils often have a review process to try and find you somewhere else although this is not a guarantee.

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