Council housing was created to provide a more affordable option to families who need it. However, since the ‘Right to Buy’ rule was introduced, all this has done is cause the waiting list for these properties to get longer and longer, making it more difficult to get a council house…
Maybe you’ve got here because you’re on that waiting list and you’re desperately searching ‘how to get a council house quicker’ and the good news is we’re here to help!
Alongside giving you some tips on how to get a council house quicker, we’re also going to explain how long the council house waiting list is, who will get priority housing AND explain what the Right to Buy scheme means for you, if you’re wanting to buy your council house.
Ready to get some answers? This menu below will help you find them ASAP:
- What is a council house?
- Who gets priority council housing?
- How long is the council house waiting list?
- How to get a council house quicker
- How long do you have to live in a council house before you can buy it?
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What is a council house?
A council house is a form of public housing in Britain, which can be applied for by families who require a more affordable housing option. A council estate is a building complex containing a number of council houses and other facilities, such as schools or shops.
Council houses are built by the local authorities and are owned by the council of each specific area. The housing costs are more affordable as they are subsidised, meaning the costs of living in one of these properties is lower than you would normally expect, with lower rental costs, lower ground rent and more.
What makes you eligible for a council house?
Each local council will have its own specific criteria around who can apply and who will get priority, so you will need to check their website to find exact details.
However, we know a ‘look for yourself’ answer isn’t what you’re here for, so we have a list of general guidelines, which, if you meet any, mean you will likely be able to apply for a council house:
- Legally homeless people
- Living in overcrowded accommodation or very bad housing conditions
- Need to move because of a disability, medical, welfare or hardship reason
- Families in a low-income group
- Without a large amount of savings
- Those who have lived in a certain area for years and have a local connection, such as a job or family there
How can I apply for a council house?
If you are looking into getting a council house, then you will need to join the council house waiting list. You can do this by applying through your local council. Each council have its own rules and regulations that will need to be met.
Typically, you will join a waiting list, although there is no guarantee that you will get a property and you may find yourself stuck on the list for quite some time. You should ask your local council how long you will be waiting.
Who gets priority council housing?
In order to get priority council housing, your local council’s allocation scheme will need to confirm that you meet one of the following criteria, to register you as more urgent:
- Are homeless or are threatened with homelessness
- Live in unsanitary or overcrowded housing
- Need to move for medical or welfare reasons
- Need to be near specialist medical or educational facilities
- Fleeing violence
There are also some cases where you can be given extra priority, which will put you higher up on the waiting list, decreasing the time between accepted application and being offered a property.
In order to be eligible to get extra priority, you will need to have served in the armed forces or have urgent housing needs.
Served in the armed forces
The council has to give you extra priority if you’re homeless or have urgent housing needs and you:
- Were in the regular armed forces
- Are seriously injured, ill or disabled because of your service
- Have to leave forces accommodation after the death in service of your spouse or civil partner
Urgent housing needs
The council can give extra priority for people with urgent housing needs, for example:
- A life-threatening illness or sudden disability
- Overcrowding or disrepair which puts your health at serious risk
- Violence or threats, including domestic abuse, witness intimidation or serious antisocial behaviour
How long is the council house waiting list?
The housing register, or, in other words, waiting list, contains different bands with each having differing wait times, with the top band having the shortest wait time due to being the most urgent. You can be on the housing register for up to 10 years and after this time, you will need to reapply.
When it comes to the housing register, there will generally always be a waiting list, as there are more people needing housing than there are council houses available.
Your location will also play a huge factor in how long you will be on the waiting list, with each area having differing amounts of property available, making some locations far easier to obtain council housing.
To help you out, here we’ve got a rough idea of the waiting time for each band:
Band 3 applicants
Band 3 for priority housing needs where the council recognises the need for them to be rehoused.
|Property type||Estimated waiting time|
|Studio and 1 bed||11 to 16 months|
|2 bed||38 to 50 months|
|3 bed||50 to 67 months|
|4, or more, bed||50 to 70 months|
|Sheltered||15 to 26 months|
Band 2 applicants
Band 2 is for priority housing needs and is for those residents who have provided evidence of making a community contribution.
|Property type||Estimated waiting time|
|Studio and 1 bed||11 to 15 months|
|2 bed||18 to 44 months|
|3 bed||22 to 60 months|
|4, or more, bed||32 to 70 months|
|Sheltered||11 to 32 months|
Band 1 applicants
Band 1 is for the highest priority housing needs and is for people with an urgent need to move.
|Property type||Estimated waiting time|
|Studio and 1 bed||11 to 13 months|
|2 bed||12 to 16 months|
|3 bed||12 to 25 months|
|4, or more, bed||36 to 70 months|
|Sheltered||12 to 14 months|
All figures and information taken from Hammersmith and Fulham government website
There will be different factors affecting your waiting times, such as:
- Time already spent waiting
- Priority band awarded to your application
- Number of households currently on the register
- Number of properties which become available
- Your preference of location
- If you have any essential requirements, for example property on the ground floor due to restricted mobility
How to get on the council list
You will need to apply for a council house on your local council website. From there you will be required to fill out an application that your local council will need to accept in order to progress with the council house process.
When it comes to filling out your application you should give as much detail as possible, being sure to give extra evidence that can help support you in your claim. You may be required to give details about the following:
- Any long term health conditions or disabilities that you may have
- Your job history
- Your income
- Any visas or immigration documents you may have if you are not from the UK
- Any savings or assets you may have
- Where you have lived previously, and why you have left
How to get a council house quicker
After you’ve been on a waiting list for several months, or even years, you will start to question how to get a council house quicker.
Sadly there is no easy way to magically get to the top of the waiting list, but we can provide you with some tricks to get a council house faster, which, if you follow, will help to cut your waiting time down!
Our tips on how to get a council house quicker:
- Be as open and flexible as you can. If you’re wanting a 3-bedroom property, but have been offered a 2-bedroom property, as you have children who can share a room, be open to accepting this. Otherwise you could be left on the waiting list with no 3-bedroom properties available, leaving you waiting years to get a council house
- Update the council of changes to circumstances. This could be anything from a job change, a change to the number of people needing the house (particularly children) or a change to medical needs. All these factors will have a bearing on your place on the waiting list
- Ensure you’re in the right band. This should be done automatically by the council when applying but making sure you’re in the band which suits your urgency is essential. Higher band = higher priority = less waiting time
- Use all your bids. Once your application is accepted, you’re able to bid on the available council houses for a chance to live in the property. You get to submit 3 bids per advertising cycle, so make sure you know when the advertising cycles are and that you submit all your bids. The more bids = the more properties you have a chance at = the faster it should be until you get a council house
- Ensure you’re bidding for the correct type of property – by this we mean bidding for the type of property you will be given priority for. Bedroom entitlement is based on number of people and age and gender of the children, and you will only be offered a property if it meets the household’s needs. In other words, you won’t be offered a property which is too big or too small
If you’re a little unsure about which property type you will be given priority for then, don’t panic – we have a general guide below to help you out. Like we said before, if you want exact details you will need to check your local council website.
Knowing which type of property you will get preference for is crucial in trying to work out how to get a council house quicker, as some properties are under higher demand compared to others:
|Property type||Customers who will be given preference for this type of property|
|1 bedroom flat/house||Single people/couples|
|2-bedroom flats||Single people/couples with part time access to children (meaning they must stay overnight for at least 2 nights a week)|
|Adapted properties||Disabled customers with a medical housing recommendation for the adaptations, for example, a through floor lift, stair lift, etc|
|Houses (with 2 or more bedrooms)||Households with primary care of dependent children (generally referring to children up to 18 in full time education) or a household with a medical recommendation for a house|
|Bungalows||People aged 60 years old, or younger customers with an appropriate medical housing recommendation (e.g. ground floor accommodation)|
|Retirement Life||People aged 60 and over who require alarm call system and warden service, or younger customers with a medical housing recommendation for sheltered accommodation. If you’re under 60, you won’t be able to bid on Retirement Life properties unless you have been assessed as requiring this type of property|
Information taken from Leeds Homes
How to win a council house bid
When looking at getting a council house, you will need to win a bid on it. With so many applicants, it can be hard to secure that winning bid when buying a council house. Below are some of our top tips to help you buy your council house:
Keep up to date:
The first step to securing your council property is to regularly check your local council’s website for housing bulletins about any new council houses that are available.
You should look into building a strong case for why you should get a council house. You can do this by collecting any documents that demonstrate your suitability for a council home.
You should spend time to carefully fill out and personalise each bid that you make when buying a council house. You should be sure to mention how it will meet your specific requirements and why you would be the ideal tenant.
Take a deep dive into the council:
You should get to know how your local council works and really get to grips with the ins and outs of council life in order to better work your way through the bidding process.
Go outside your comfort zone:
You should potentially consider looking further afield for council properties, expanding your search into slightly less popular areas where there may be fewer bids.
You could also consider taking steps to improve your personal finances. You can do this by managing debts, seeking financial advice as well as improving your credit score. This will help paint you as the best tenant for the property and can help you in the bidding process.
You should also consider the property you want to bid for. Do you need a council house with three bedrooms or you can make do with a two-bedroom? Do you need to be in a certain location or would you be happy elsewhere?
How long do you have to live in a council house before you can buy it?
When being offered a council house for the first time, you are only able to rent the property, meaning you don’t actually own it. Having said this, as we mentioned earlier, you are able to buy your council house after a certain amount of time, under the Right to Buy scheme.
The Right to Buy scheme states you can apply to buy your council house if:
- It’s your main or only home
- It’s self-contained
- You’re a secure tenant
- You’ve had a public sector landlord for 5 years – whether that’s a council, an NHS trust or a housing association
Although 5 years sounds a long time, it doesn’t need to be 5 years ‘back-to-back’ and if you’ve spent any time in armed forces accommodation, then this will also count towards the 5 years.
You can also use this eligibility calculator to see whether or not you’re able to apply.
The Right to Buy scheme allows tenants to buy their council house at a discount, with the maximum discount across England being £84,600, excluding London where the maximum discount is £112,800.
A little curious as to how much discount you could get? This Right to Buy calculator will help answer your question!
So there you have it, details about what a council house is exactly, our tips on how to get a council house quicker and what to do when you’re wanting to buy your council house to find out if you’re eligible. Got a question to ask? Or maybe you have some extra insight to share? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.