Duty to publish allocation rules

Applicants who apply to a local authority or registered social landlord for housing have the right to access the rules that determine whether they will be admitted to a waiting list or allocated a house.

This content applies to Scotland

Publishing the allocation rules

All local authorities and registered social landlords must make and publish rules governing how they allocate housing. [1]

In particular they must publish rules on how:

  • certain applicants are given priority

  • tenants are transferred from houses belonging to the local authority or registered social landlords to houses belonging to other bodies

  • the exchange of houses works.

The duty to publish these rules means that local authorities and registered social landlords must make their rules available to the public at reasonable times at their main office. Local authorities must also make the rules accessible in local housing department offices along with the allocation rules used by all registered social landlords who offer housing in their area. The onus is on registered social landlords to send copies of their rules to the relevant local authorities. A summary of the allocation rules should be available for free and, if requested, a full copy of the rules should be available to purchase at a reasonable price.

Allocation decisions based on unwritten policies

Local authorities and registered social landlords must make allocation decisions based on these written policies only. An allocation decision cannot be made on the basis of an unwritten policy since, by definition, this policy will not be reflected in the rules on allocations which the local authority or registered social landlord has published.

If a decision is made on an unwritten policy, the decision is likely to be invalid and unlawful as in the case of Gallacher v. Stirling Council. [2] The decision in the Gallacher case confirmed that s.21 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 requires the published allocation policy to give details of how applications from homeless people will be dealt with. In this case, the decision was made on the basis of an unwritten policy and therefore was invalid. Furthermore, the court said that the decision was not validated by the fact that the local authority wrote a letter to the applicant giving her details of how her application would be dealt with. This was not the same as having a written policy and did not render a decision based on an unwritten policy valid.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.21 Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [2]

    2001 SLT 94; 2000 Hous LR 52