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Challenging allocation decisions

This page explains what you can do if you have applied for housing from the council, a housing association or co-op and are unhappy with an allocation decision or the way your application has been processed.

Making a complaint

There are a number of ways you can take action if you have applied for housing from the council, a housing association or cooperative and:

  • you aren't happy with the decision that's been made about your case, for example because you've been given very low priority on the waiting list, or
  • you think you have been treated unfairly or discriminated against, or
  • the council or housing association has taken an unreasonably long time to make a decision.

The council or housing association should have its own complaints procedure. Contact the housing department or housing association or the council's customer care department to find out how to make an official complaint.

Find out more about complaining to the council and complaining to a housing association.

Contact your local representative

Ask your local councillor or MSP to make inquiries on your behalf. You should be able to find details of your local councillor on the council's website or by calling the switchboard. You can find out who your MSP is at the Scottish Parliament website.

Complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

What can the Ombudsman do?

The Ombudsman is an independent watchdog that investigates complaints of injustice caused by councils not doing something they should have done or doing things in the wrong way. It can look into the way the council or housing association processed your application to make sure that it acted fairly and followed the correct procedures. Usually you will have to make a formal complaint to the council or housing association first.

After the Ombudsman has completed its investigations it can recommend that the council or housing association pays compensation or takes action to put things right. Councils are not legally obliged to comply with Ombudsman recommendations but they usually do so. In some cases, they may even offer to put the situation right before the Ombudsman has finished investigating your complaint.

What type of complaints can the Ombudsman deal with?

Examples of complaints the Ombudsman can deal with include situations where the council or housing association:

  • took an overly long time to come to a decision
  • discriminated against you when it made its decision
  • gave you bad or misleading advice.

How do I complain to the Ombudsman?

The Ombudsman produces a complaint form and leaflet on how to complain, which are available free on the SPSO website. You have to complain in writing and should include copies of any evidence (such as letters from the council or housing association) that supports your complaint.

Request a formal review

If you've been made an offer of housing as part of a homeless application you have made to the council, you can request a review of the decision if you don't think the accommodation is suitable for you.

Apply for judicial review

Judicial review is a type of legal action that can be used to challenge decisions made by public organisations such as the council. It is used to challenge the way that decisions have been made, rather than the decisions themselves. For example, it can be used if the council has ignored relevant factors when assessing your case, or taken into account factors which shouldn't affect its decision, such as non-tenancy related debts.

Even if the judicial review is successful, the court can't impose its own decision on your case (for example, it can't award you more points), but it can overturn the council's decision and make the housing department look at it again.

Judicial review is very complicated, so you should get specialist advice before taking any action.

Sue for damages

If you believe the council has discriminated against you on the grounds of race, sex or disability, you can sue for damages in the sheriff court.

Find out more about getting a solicitor.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • You need to complain to the council, housing association or co-operative first to let them know you're unhappy. If your offer of housing was part of a homelessness application, you can request a review of their decision if the accommodation was unsuitable for you.
  • You could contact your local councillor, MSP or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman if the problem is not resolved.
  • The other options available are judicial review and suing for damages. Get advice to help you decide if taking this route is the best option as it may be expensive.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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