Social housing application priorities | The Tenants' Voice
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Social housing application priorities

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last updated: 28 May 2016 report a problem

social housing application priorities

In this article

  • Who a council gives priority to when deciding who is eligible for social housing
  • In what circumstances your application might be refused
  • What to do if you don’t think you’ve been given enough priority


It is a good idea for anyone thinking about applying for social housing to familiarise themselves with that council’s policies on priority. That way you will not be disappointed if you find you do not qualify or you will at least have a better idea of where you might sit on the waiting list and how long it might take before you are offered a place to live.

The factors that will influence the decision could be one of the following:

  • The availability of council or housing association housing in the area you want to live
  • How many other applicants have more priority than you
  • How long you have lived in the area
  • Whether you are in the set group that councils must give extra priority to
  • You are homeless or about to be made homeless

If you are homeless or about to lose your home through eviction, the council you are applying to may be bound by law to provide assistance and you may find you have been given extra priority. However, that depends on the circumstances in which you were made homeless.

Currently living in poor housing?

You may be eligible for priority consideration if you are currently living in very poor conditions; for example, if your house is in a terrible state and needs serious repair or it is unhygienic through poor sewers. If you are experiencing overcrowding, that might give you priority status and the council will even consider your current accommodation to be poor if you don’t have adequate washing or cooking facilities.

To check, the council will conduct a visit to make an assessment and use a scoring system depending on how bad the living conditions are.

If you or a family member living with you has a medical condition

If you or a family member you live with is suffering from a medical condition or health problems made worse by the property you live in you will be given significant priority. The same applies to anyone who has difficulty moving around their current home or has mental health problems made worse by the living conditions.

If you are applying on medical grounds you need to make sure you explain fully the difficulties you and/or your family are experiencing in your present accommodation. The council will also do a follow-up assessment and contact your GP or other healthcare expert to assess your needs.

If you were in the armed forces and sustained serious injury during service

Councils are being urged by the government to give extra priority to ex-service personnel who may have been seriously injured while on duty and need special housing. If you have a disability, injury or medical condition as a direct result of serving in the armed forces, then you should receive appropriate priority attention.

Other considerations the council may take into account when deciding your priority

  • You have specific social or welfare reasons that mean you need to live in the area to avoid hardship, such as being close to a family member to look after them or you have a child who needs to go to a special school
  • You have been subject to domestic abuse, violence, sexual/racial harassment or attacks, threats and intimidation or there is a risk that you will be if you continue living in your present accommodation

Circumstances when a council will not consider you suitable for council housing

If you or a family member have been involved in anti-social behaviour or repeatedly been late paying rent in the past, this will be enough for a council to reject your application. If you choose to challenge the decision you should seek further advice from Shelter or The Citizens Advice Bureau, especially if you think you have been wrongly labelled by the council.

What to do if you think the council has been unfair with prioritising 

It is well worth getting advice and querying the council’s decision if you think there has been an error or oversight with your application.

Where to go for further help and advice

You can get some basic advice from the UK Government website or talk to someone at Shelter or Citizens Advice.

In summary

  • There is huge pressure and demand on local authorities to provide social housing – and places are limited
  • A council takes many things into consideration when deciding who should get priority and be included on the council housing waiting list
  • Read as much as you can before applying to see if you will be given priority
  • When applying, think carefully about the details you give and remember to explain fully all about your current living situation and personal circumstances – e.g., if you have a medical condition or are currently living in poor accommodation
  • Be prepared to be disappointed if the council refuses your application – but do remember you can challenge the decision if you think there has been an oversight with your application

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