Getting a council house entails a few steps with a rigorous verification check to ensure that only those individuals are allotted council or housing association property by the local authorities who are eligible for it. Through this article, we aim to learn whether or not you can get a council (or at least qualify for one) if you have been renting privately. Additionally, we will also explore whether or not you can apply for a council house if you own a house of your own as well as discuss the eligibility and priority criteria for council housing.

Can I Get A Council House If I Rent Privately?

Yes, you can get a council house if you rent privately. According to the eligibility criteria for council housing, an applicant should be of low income and have a local connection to the area in which they have applied for a council house.

That said, the amount of rent that you pay for private property, the size and location of the property as well as your income and lifestyle will determine whether or not you qualify for council house tenancy. If you are unable to provide evidential support by renting in luxury privately with an expensive lifestyle, your application for council housing will not be considered by the authorities.

Your income, savings and expenses are part of the means-test conducted by local authorities after they receive your application for council housing. This assessment helps them in making a decision regarding the applicant’s eligibility for council housing.

Even after a claimant’s council housing application is accepted, it may take anywhere between 12 to 16 months to find a 2-bed council house and between 36 to 70 months to get a 4-bed house.

During this time, claimants remain on a waiting list and are informed as and when a suitable property becomes available for them. In case there is a change in their circumstances, claimants must inform their local council authorities of this.

Why Does Private Renting Not Affect Council House Eligibility?

There are quite a few reasons why private renting does not affect council house eligibility. Firstly, local councils will accept or reject an application using their allocation policy as a guideline, not just the previous housing status of an applicant. 

As per these guidelines, the eligibility criteria for council housing do not take into consideration if an applicant is a private renter at the moment. They will, however, consider the income, savings, health condition and legal age of the applicant to consider them eligible for council housing.

Secondly, council housing is intended for individuals who are on a low income and this includes private tenants who can no longer afford their private rent and are applying for council housing due to a reduction in their income or change in circumstances.

Finally, if the applicant (or a family member) develops a disability or a health condition and their current privately rented house does not meet their needs, they have reason to apply for a council house. Since council authorities consider such applicants to be in dire need of suitable living conditions, they will not only be eligible for council housing on medical grounds but will also rank high on priority for an allotment. 

Can The Council Help Me Rent Privately?

Yes, the council office can help interested and qualifying tenants to rent privately through schemes being offered by them. For instance, the Greenwich Council offers the HACTRAC scheme to guide and help families in their search for privately rented housing options so that they do not have to face homelessness. 

The HACTRAC scheme supports families by finding suitable properties for them and making sure that they do not have to pay a deposit. 

However, there are certain essential points to remember:

  • The HACTRAC scheme is being offered on a limited basis currently and a lot of people (especially those who are single) will not be able to find support
  • The scheme does not make it mandatory for councils to find suitable accommodation for claimants; in most cases, you will have to find a place and contact your local council office for help with the deposit
  • The rental payment for approved properties under this scheme should not be more than the Local Housing Allowance; whether or not you are claiming Housing Benefit

If you are interested in participating in the scheme, you will need to speak to an adviser at the Housing Inclusion Service.

What Issues Can You Face If You Rent A Council House?

Some of the issues that you can possibly face if you intend to rent a council house are discussed below:

  • You are not ranked high on the priority list for council housing and may have to wait a long time before a council property is offered to you
  • You require a larger council house than what is being offered to you as your approved allocation is much lesser than your demand or need
  • You don’t have a local connection to the area and your application is not approved for the council district that you are interested in moving into
  • You are not on low income to claim council housing but can’t afford private rent either
  • The housing structure, kitchen and bathrooms are aged in design and style
  • You may have to move from a private home to a council flat due to your family size

Despite these challenges, if your application for council housing is approved, you will find yourself paying a lower rent which will enable you to manage your expenses.

Can I Get A Council House If I Own A House?

Chances are that you will not be considered eligible for a council house if you own a house or you are paying a mortgage on private property. Unless there has been a major change in your personal circumstances, your personal health or income status or the property in question is overcrowded for you and your family, you will not be able to qualify for social housing under such conditions.

Even if your application is successfully processed for a council house in such circumstances, the authorities will put you on a non-priority waiting list. This means that it may take years before you are offered a council house to move into.

Who Can Get A Council House?

To get a  council house, you must be offered one once your eligibility and verification check is complete. Anyone can apply for a council house as long as they fulfil the below eligibility criteria:

  • You are a British citizen living in the UK
  • Your age is more than 18 years (although some councils may allow 16 years old to apply for council housing)
  • You are low on income and savings
  • You have a local connection to the area such as home or work located within the council premises

Who Can Get A Council House On Priority?

While council authorities have individual criteria for assigning council homes to certain applicants on a priority basis; as a general understanding, council housing applicants faced with any of the below challenging circumstances will find themselves being given a priority by all council authorities:

  • legally homeless or at very high risk of becoming homeless in the next few days/weeks
  • having a disability, a severe (or terminal) health condition or a mental illness
  • faced with severe financial hardship
  • living in cramped, unhygienic or overcrowded conditions

In addition, individuals who have suffered or are at high risk of suffering from domestic abuse, are unsafe in their current homes, are pregnant, are single parents or have retired from the armed forces will also be given priority for council housing.

How Can I Get A Council House?

To apply for council housing, candidates are required to apply to their local council (mostly online), which will then consider based on their criteria for awarding priority to those from certain demographics and or social classes. To find out details about your local council click on this link Find your local council

Even if the local council accepts and prioritises the application, it does not mean that the applicant will be provided with occupancy rights immediately. They will simply be confirmed to be eligible and added to a waiting list. The time between application and occupancy varies from council to council and may also depend upon the size of the waiting list.


The discussion in this blog post has brought us to the conclusion that one can apply for a council house if they live on rent in a privately owned property. The eligibility criteria for council housing takes into account the income and savings of applicants and as long as an applicant is low on income and savings, they will remain eligible for council housing.

FAQs: Can I Get A Council House If I Rent Privately?

What’s the difference between private and council tenants?

The main difference between a private and council tenant is that private tenants live in houses owned by landlords who are common people like them and they pay a higher rent for the house that they live in. On the other hand council tenants live in council houses which are state-funded and are provided to people on low incomes. The rents that council tenants pay are much lesser than the rent charged to private tenants. 

Who is the highest priority for council housing?

People who are homeless, terminally ill or living in unsanitary conditions are the highest priority for council housing.

Can you Airbnb a council house?

No, you cannot Airbnb a council house as it is illegal to sublet a council property when you have been assigned tenancy of it.

Is social housing better than private?

Social housing is intended for individuals of low income; making it affordable, durable and more spacious. However, one needs to meet the eligibility criteria for social housing. On the other hand, private housing is more modern in design and one does not have to remain on a waiting list for long periods of time to find a house that they like.

How long does it take to get a council house in the UK?

The amount of time it takes to get a council house in the UK depends on your demand. If you are looking for a studio or 1 bedroom council flat, you may find it in a year’s time. On the other hand, if your need demands a 4 bedroom or larger council property, you may have to wait between 3 to 5 years before you are allotted the property.


Giving up council tenancy and privately renting – does anyone have experience? | Mumsnet

Renting Council and Social Housing | Housing Options

Are you eligible for social housing? | The Tenants’ Voice

How to apply for a council house

HACTRAC scheme | Help to find private rented accommodation | Royal Borough of Greenwich.