Can I Get A Council House If I’m In Debt?

Limitations on finance can lead to debt, reduced income and even having to move into council housing from a privately rented place. The purpose of this article is to learn if individuals who are in debt can still apply for an get a council house or will their application be disregarded. Additionally, we will discuss two of the key housing debts and their impact on one’s ability to get a council house.

Can I Get A Council House If I’m In Debt?

Yes, you can get a council house if you are in debt. However, if you have just applied, your application may be delayed for approval as additional checks are carried out by the authorities regarding your financial status. Once your application is approved, you might be assigned a low rank on the council housing priority list due to your debts (unless there are dire circumstances such as homelessness or a severe illness to be considered)

Council authorities are more lenient towards housing-related debt and will allow your application for council housing to be processed in most cases. For instance, the Cambridge City Council will encourage council housing applicants to clear their debts; however, if the debt that you owe falls into the below categories, your council housing application will not be affected:

  • former or current rent arrears
  • former or current housing-related service charge arrears
  • unpaid re-chargeable repairs
  • bed and breakfast charge arrears,
  • the Council’s private rented Access Scheme arrears,
  • loans from the Council’s Homeless Prevention Fund
  • Housing Benefit overpayments made to the tenant/landlord 
  • costs associated with court action relating to housing-related debts

There are certain debts that are classified as priority debts. If you are applying for council housing, you should try to pay them off at the earliest or at least contact the relevant authorities to work out a re-payment plan. Priority debts include the following:

  • Rent arrears
  • Mortgage arrears
  • Secured loan arrears
  • Council tax arrears
  • Gas or electricity bills
  • Phone or internet bills
  • Television license payments
  • Payments for goods bought on hire purchase
  • Unpaid income tax, national insurance or VAT
  • Unpaid child maintenance

Then there are non-priority debts which can be paid once priority debts have been cleared. These include the following:

  • Credit card or store card debts
  • Catalogue debts
  • Payday loans
  • Unpaid water bills
  • Overpaid benefits
  • Unpaid parking tickets
  • Money owed to friends and family

Can I Get A Council House If I Have Rent Arrears?

Whether or not you can get a council house with rent arrears depends on the council’s decision as each council authority has its own ruling on the matter. 

If you are applying for a council house for the first time and you have rent arrears from a private landlord, you may be excused for not being able to afford rental payments due to high rent; considering your low-income status. If you have had rent arrears two to three years ago, this may not affect your council housing application by most councils.

Leicester Council states on their website that even though they conduct a rent arrears check to confirm whether an applicant has any rental debt or not, this will not affect their decision with regards to the allotment of a council house in their district. Applicants will continue to remain on a priority list for council housing in Leicester; based on the assessment of their housing needs.

On the other hand, there are certain councils that will neither allow you to get a council house if you have rental arrears nor permit a change of council house (this can be an upgrade, downgrade or mutual exchange) until your debt is cleared. 

Can I Get A Council House If I Have Council Tax Arrears?

Yes, you can get a council house if you have council tax arrears from a previous residence; as long as you have worked out a repayment plan with the council authorities. There is no legal restriction on a council tax debtor to move to new premises (private or state) with arrears due towards their previous council. 

However, the debt will still remain in their name and will not be transferred to the new owners or tenants. This means that if you have council tax arrears and you move to a council house you will not only be paying council tax for the new property but will also be obliged to clear your dues concerning the previous premises as well.

The best way to proceed in such a situation would be to inform your local council of your intention to move and work out a mutually agreed payment plan so that after your move to the new premises, the number of your tax bills due does not inflate. 


The above discussion clarifies that even if someone is under debt they can still expect to get a council house. However, they must be able to provide evidence that shows that their debts are due to sound reasons and they are working towards a repayment plan with the concerned authorities. 

FAQs: Can I Get A Council House If I’m In Debt?

Why would you be refused a council house?

One of the main reasons for being refused a council house is that it does not meet your needs; either it is too big or too small or designed for an occupant with a disability. Other reasons for a refusal can include housing-related debt such as rent or council tax arrears.

Will the council house me if I have rent arrears?

Most councils will provide you with housing even if you have rent arrears; as long as you have worked out a repayment plan or indicate your intention to pay back the debts. However, there are certain councils that will refuse your application for housing due to rent arrears.

Does my local council have to house me if I am homeless?

While local councils do provide emergency shelter to those who are homeless in their district. However, they are not obliged to provide long-term housing facilities.

What happens if you can’t afford your rent?

If you can’t afford your rent, you should inform your landlord immediately and try to work out an easy instalment plan. If you can’t pay your rent due to low income, you can apply for benefits to help you with housing costs.

What can I do if I am homeless and have no money?

If you are homeless and have no money, you should contact your local council or a community organisation at the earliest.

Do I qualify for emergency housing in the UK?

If someone legally homeless, has a priority need due to children, pregnancy, domestic abuse, or any other risk, they qualify for emergency housing in the UK.


Dealing with rent arrears in social housing – Citizens Advice

Pay Council Tax arrears – GOV.UK

Housing Related Debt Policy – Cambridge City Council

Applying for council housing while in debt.

Dealing with Council Tax arrears