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Applying for social housing

How to get on the housing list

You’ll need to fill in a housing application form either online or on paper, and give details about:

  • yourself and anyone who will be living with you

  • your current living situation

  • your housing needs and preferences

You’ll usually also need to provide some form of ID, your national insurance number, and proof of your current address. You may be asked for references from previous landlords.

Check where to apply

Contact your council’s housing team and ask them if there’s a common housing register in your area. This is a joint waiting list shared between the council and different housing associations, so you only have to make one application.

Otherwise, you'll have to apply directly to each council and housing association.

To understand your options, you could:

When you've decided where to apply, check if there's an application form on their website. If not, you'll need to request one by phone or email, or visit their office in person.

What to include in your application

On your application form, include any information that could give you higher priority on the waiting list. For example, tell them if:

  • your current home is too small for your family

  • your current home has serious repair issues

  • your home is causing you health problems, including mental health

  • you do not have a right to stay in your current home – for example if you live with family who want you to leave

  • you’re disabled or have medical needs and your home is not suitable for you

  • you need to move for work or family reasons

Provide evidence if you can. For example, you could include letters from your doctor or from social work.

The application form might also ask:

  • which areas you’re willing to live in

  • what type of housing you want – for example, a house or a ground-floor flat

To get offered a home more quickly, be flexible if you can, and keep your preferences as broad as possible.

What happens after you apply

The council or housing association will look at your circumstances and needs. They may need to visit your current home to check if it’s unsuitable or overcrowded.

They should write to tell you how many points you have or which band you're in. Check the allocation policy to make sure you've been given the right priority.

Ask for an update on your application

If you have not been told about your priority or you've been waiting a long time, email or write to the council or housing association for an update.

Use our letter template to ask how long you can expect to wait

If you think your priority is wrong

You have the right to appeal.

Use our letter template for challenging a social housing application decision

If your circumstances change

Contact the council or housing association and ask them to amend your application. This is important so that you only get offered homes that are suitable for your needs and circumstances.

You could get higher priority on the waiting list if your need for housing has become more urgent.

If you cannot accept an offer of housing at the moment, ask for your application to be deferred. For example, if you’ve got health issues or family responsibilities that mean you cannot move. This means you'll still be on the waiting list, but you will not get any offers.

Last updated: 19 January 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England

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