Can You Decorate Council Houses?

Council houses serve as a low-cost alternative means of residence for those individuals who are either unable to afford private housing or a private residence does not meet their specific health or disability needs. Depending on the approval of the claimant’s application for council housing and the priority band assigned to them (depending on their circumstances) it may take months or sometimes a few years to move from the waiting list or housing register into actual premises. 

Can You Decorate Council Houses?

Yes, not only can you decorate council houses, in some cases the council provides you with a voucher when you move into a council house to purchase items for home decor. You may be able to use this voucher for specific items only. However, with certain items paid for, you can allocate your own finances to other areas of home furnishing.

In some cases, if a council house resident is above 70 years of age and claiming benefits, they can apply for help with home decor especially if the following conditions are being met:

  • The resident is above 70 years of age and claiming benefits
  • They have no help to get home decor work carried out 
  • The room(s) have not been decorated in at least 10 years
  • The resident has been paying their rent on time
  • There are no legal notices against the property
  • They have not applied to purchase the property

In some cases, certain home improvement tasks need to be carried out prior to home decor. These may include rewiring, extensive re-plastering or fitting central heating systems. You should make sure that there is a thorough assessment of the kind of home improvements that are required so that such work is complete before you start decorating your council house. In most cases, your council or social housing landlord will bear the expense of major home improvements.

However, tenants are expected to pay for basic essentials such as fixing a curtain rail or putting up a shower curtain in the bathroom.

In case of home improvements, you may have to seek permission from the council authorities prior to work commencing on the property. The expense of most of the following may be reimbursed by the council:

  • Toilet, bath, shower, wash-basin
  • Kitchen sink and work surfaces 
  • Storage cupboards 
  • Heating equipment 
  • Radiator valves
  • Insulation
  • Draught-proofing 
  • Double glazing or other window replacement
  • Rewiring, fixing of electrical fittings (including smoke detectors)

The permission to decorate council houses and the extent of the work carried out in this regard depends a lot on the type of tenancy agreement that you have in place. For instance, introductory tenants may only be allowed to conduct minor repairs inside their house, while fixed-term tenants may not be allowed to make any changes to the council house. Secure tenants on the other hand can carry out interior and exterior decor as well as home improvement tasks such as installing new bathrooms or a fireplace or even building of an extension or greenhouse. Still, you must attain written permission from your council authorities prior to the start of any such work on the property.

Find your local council to learn more about the specific guidelines that apply to your district.

To have a better understanding of the structure of council housing, we will explore the following topics: 

  • What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?
  • Can Council Help With Furniture?
  • Can Council Help With Carpets?
  • Can Council Help With Moving Costs?
  • Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

What Are The Different Types Of Tenancies For Council Housing?

A tenancy agreement serves as a legal agreement bound by terms and conditions that the undersigning parties agree to while a living space is rented out. Tenancy agreements for council housing may be classified as below:

  • Introductory Tenancy: This is considered to be a 12 month trial period for tenants during which their rights to exchange property or make modifications to it are limited. Unless the tenant is evicted or the agreement extended for another 6 months, these will automatically convert to secure or flexible agreements once the trial period is over. 
  • Secure Tenancy: This form of tenancy secures your occupancy in the council house for life; unless you break any tenancy rules stated in the agreement. In this case, you may sub-let rooms in the property but not the entire premises. You may also transfer the tenancy to someone else, exchange the premises or even apply to purchase the property.
  • Flexible Tenancy: This type of tenancy is usually for a fixed term of 2 to 5 years; at the end of which the council may decide to offer you a renewed contract on similar terms, offer a secure tenancy or not renew at any terms at all. You continue to enjoy all the privileges of a secure tenant under such a contract; however, it remains time-bound. 
  • Joint Tenancy: This is a contract that comes into place after a secure or flexible tenancy as a result of the addition of a spouse/partner/joint tenant to your home. Under this contract, you and the joint tenant both become liable for rent payments and become eligible for all the privileges under secure tenancy jointly. 

Can Council Help With Furniture?

Yes, the council can help with furniture by giving vouchers to residents to purchase furniture through certain schemes or charities. Sometimes this furniture is available at extremely low-cost; while at other times, charities may pay for them while residents claim to use it. 

This means that while councils may not directly pay for the furniture that a council house resident requires, they can connect them to charities who can either offer the pay for the furniture while the resident pays them back in instalments or sometimes they may simply make the payment on behalf of the resident(s) who is not expected to make any payment at all. 

Some social housing providers provide council homes that are furnished. In the case of any changes or repairs needed for the furniture, they are also willing to offer to repair or replace the items without any additional cost to the tenants. However, the furniture may be preloved and not brand new.

Can Council Help With Carpets?

No, councils do not help with the provision of carpets for residents of council houses. However, if you inform your local authorities that you need carpets for your council house, they will be able to connect you to certain charities to help you find grants for furniture and carpets, while some of them may offer preloved items including carpets at reasonable prices.

However, local councils may also help you in providing hot meals and other household equipment such as a cooker. This is called a “welfare scheme”. Since each council runs their own welfare scheme you may need to connect with your own council office to learn specific details of it applies in your area Find your local council It is not necessary that you need to claim benefits to qualify for a welfare assistance scheme.

Can Council Help With Moving Costs?

Yes, councils can help with moving costs. They have certain allowances available with them to extend financial aid in the form of grants or loans to those who are in need and qualify. 

At times, they may be able to arrange a Discretionary Housing Payment; which is a one time grant extended to cover the costs of housing. Applicants are expected to be able to provide proof of moving costs with expense details. Along with it, they will also be required to submit an application stating valid reason(s) for moving their house as well as evidence of the new property being more affordable than the previous one. 

Can Applicants Choose Their Own Homes?

Applicants will need to check with their local councils whether a place of residence will be chosen and assigned by the council or the residents be given the option to choose. In the case of the latter, once the application is approved, the local council may share an online platform where the process of “bidding” takes place.

If a candidate finds a suitable home and prefers it as their residence, they may inform the council of their intent by applying for it online. This is called “bidding”. The council may then direct them on how to proceed with the next steps in the bidding process.

A bid is merely a show of interest from the candidates’ side and does not guarantee that they may be assigned the premises. Depending upon the priority band and the time taken as part of the waiting list, the council decides whether the property is to be assigned as a housing facility to the bidding candidate or not.

In some cases, should candidates not approve of the housing facility assigned by the local council, they have the option of refusing it. However, too many refusals may lead to removal from the waiting list.


Unless a council house resident is seeking temporary residence while they make permanent arrangements or is on a fixed-term contract with the council authorities, most tenants expect to stay in their council house for a few years and would like to customise their residence according to their needs and preferences. 

From carpets to furniture to household accessories, there are many items of home decor that a resident would invest in or re-use from their previous premises especially if they are moving from a privately rented place.

While tenants are free to decorate the interior of their council house, exteriors are permitted space only for those council house tenants who have a Secure Tenancy Agreement.

There are many councils that also offer free vouchers to their tenants to decorate their homes or are willing to provide preloved items.

However, it is essential to remember items that fall under decoration and those that may fall under home improvement as in the case of the latter, tenants will be required to consult their local authorities or seek permission in some cases.

Therefore, it is best to attain local council approval prior to the commencement of any modifications to one’s council house.

FAQs: Can You Decorate Council Houses?

Can you knock down a wall in a council house?

No, you cannot knock down a wall in a council house. If you need to make structural changes to a council house, you must inform your local council authorities who will first assess the need and then make a decision. In some cases, they will also bear the expense if your requirement is justified and the application is approved by them. However, if you proceed without approval, you will be required to not only bear all the expenses on your own but also the cost of rebuilding the wall.

Can you build onto a council house?

You cannot build an extension to a council house without the approval of local council authorities. If you need added space to your council house, you must inform your local council office. They will either arrange a larger space for you by moving you into another council housing facility or grant permission for building an extension.

How often do council change kitchens?

Most council kitchens are expected to last at least 30 years. However, if a tenant does not find their council house kitchen in an appropriate condition, they should inform the council authorities. They will send a representative to inspect the premises and make an assessment.

What improvements can I make to my council house?

You can make home improvements to your council house without council permission if you are putting up new carpets or wallpaper or curtains. However, in the case of the following, you will need permission from local authorities.

  • Toilet, bath, shower, wash-basin
  • Kitchen sink and work surfaces 
  • Storage cupboards 
  • Heating equipment 
  • Radiator valves
  • Insulation
  • Draught-proofing 
  • Double glazing or other window replacement
  • Rewiring, fixing of electrical fittings (including smoke detectors)

Can my son buy my council house for me?

Your son can only buy your council house for you if he has shared tenancy with you in the council house during the past 12 months. Otherwise, non-tenants do not have the right to purchase a council house.


Repairs and maintenance in your council house

Get help with decorating your council home

Decorating your council house

Carrying out improvements and alterations to your council home | Ipswich Borough Council

Decorating and improvements to your council home – Epping Forest District Council

Alterations to council properties | LBHF

Decoration grants for your home

Council housing: Types of tenancy

Getting a council home

Repairs and maintenance in council and housing association homes