About renting your home from the council

Most people over the age of 16 can apply for council housing anywhere in Scotland. This page explains more about how to make an application. 

Applying for council housing is not the same as applying to the council as homeless. You can make a homeless application if you have nowhere safe or permanent to stay. You can ask to have your name put down on the council housing list at the same time.

What is council housing?

This is accommodation provided by the council. Rent will usually be cheaper than with a private landlord and you won't have to pay a deposit before you move in.

Council housing may be:

  • a house or flat

  • supported accommodation

  • sheltered accommodation

Who can apply?

Anyone over 16 can apply for council housing anywhere in Scotland. In some cases your immigration status may affect your right to apply. If the council refuses to accept your application, get advice from a Shelter Scotland adviser.

What if I have special needs?

If you have special needs, the council's social work department may be able to help you access accommodation that's suitable for you. This may be the case if you:

  • are elderly or infirm

  • have mental health issues

  • have a disability

  • have learning difficulties

  • are a young person who needs support living independently

  • are a refugee or asylum seeker

  • are an ex-offender

  • have an alcohol or drug related dependency

The section on supported accommodation has more information.

How do I apply?

To apply for council housing, you need to fill in an application form, which you can get from the council housing department. You can write, call in or phone to ask for a form. Check your council's website for contact details.

You should be given a leaflet with the form, which explains:

  • how to fill the form in

  • how the application process works

  • your council's allocation policy (that is, how they decide who should get a house first)

The pages on applying for housing and allocation policies explain how the application process works and how councils decide who will have priority on their waiting lists.

Common housing registers

When you make your application, ask if there is a common housing register for your area. This is a joint waiting list for housing from the council and also from housing associations and cooperatives in your area. Joining a common housing register has two advantages:

  • it saves you time, as you won't have to make separate applications to the council and to all the individual housing associations and co-ops in your area.

  • it increases your chances of getting accommodation

How much rent will I have to pay?

Renting from the council is generally cheaper than renting from a private landlord, and rents vary depending on the size of the property and the facilities it has. Rents which include additional services such as meals or support tend to be higher, in order to cover the costs.

What are my rights as a council tenant?

If you rent from the council, you will either be a Scottish secure tenant or a short Scottish secure tenant. Scottish secure tenants have strong tenancy rights. There is a right to have certain repairs carried out within set timescales. You will also have the right to pass on your tenancy to family. Short Scottish secure tenants have fewer rights, and can be evicted more easily.

When you move in, you will be given a tenants' handbook outlining everything you need to know about renting from the council. This will include how to pay your rent, what your responsibilities are, and what to do if you need repairs done to your home. Some councils also have their tenants' handbook available online. Check your council's website to find out.

What if I want to move?

Any council tenant can apply to transfer from one council property to another. Most transfers take place within the same council area, but several schemes exist that can help you move to another council house in another area of the UK. The section on transfers and mutual exchanges has more information.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 7 June 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England