Your Guide to Council Housing and Housing Associations in Rights

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Find out how to apply for what is known as 'social housing' and know your rights as a tenant.

Housing provided by councils and housing associations is generally known as social housing.

It's usually cheaper than renting from a private landlord and you don’t have to pay a deposit. In a council house you will have what is known as a 'secure tenancy'. In a housing association it’s called an 'assured tenancy'.

Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for social housing. If you live with your parents, or any relative, in a house owned by the local council or a housing association, you may have a right to take on the tenancy.

How can I apply for social housing?

You apply to social housing by filling in an application form and you can get a form from your local council. You could look up the housing department on your council website for more information where there may be an option to fill out a form online.

They should give you information about how the process works, how long it takes and how houses are allocated. If you're unsure of which local authority area you live in, you can find this out using the DirectGov website.

Some councils have common housing registers, which you can usually find with a quick Google search. This is a joint waiting list between the local authority and local housing associations. If you fit the criteria to apply to a common register, it means you don’t need to fill in separate application forms.

There's a waiting list for council housing and usually priority is given depending on your circumstances (such as being declared homeless, or if have any dependants living with you) so this may not be for you if you're just looking to move relatively quickly.

Note: Think carefully when you are filling in the application form about which areas you are prepared to live in, as you may not be offered your first choice.

What are my rights and responsibilities as a social housing tenant?

The Social Housing Charter sets out what tenants can expect from social landlords. You can expect to be treated fairly and with respect and to receive fair access to housing, here are a few key things to keep a note of:

  • Social landlords should make it easy for you to communicate with them and get the information you need about your housing.
  • Social landlords should make it possible for you to participate and shape the service they deliver.
  • Social landlords have a responsibility to make sure that housing is clean, tidy and in a good state of repair. They should make sure that repairs and improvements are carried out when needed and tenants are given reasonable choice about when the work is done.
  • Social landlords must work to help make sure that tenants feel safe in the neighbourhoods they live in.
  • Social landlords must ensure that people looking for housing get the information they need to make an informed decision.

As a tenant, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you maintain your housing in the same condition that you found it. More information on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

What if I don't want the accommodation I've been offered?

If you are made an offer of accommodation by the council or housing association but don’t want to accept, talk it through with the housing officer and make sure it won’t stop you getting other offers.

You can always refuse and get another offer if you have reasonable grounds – like the housing not being structurally sound, poor wiring or security, or it being in an unsuitable place.

More Help & Information

Shelter - Shelter provide information and advice on housing issues.

You can have a look on their website or call their free helpline from Monday to Friday at 9am-5pm on 0808 800 4444.