The time that it takes from applying for a council to finding one that meets your needs and is offered to you on the basis of your priority ranking on the council housing waiting list can take months if not years due to a greater demand for council homes compared to available properties. While the aim of this article is to explain the eligibility criteria for council housing, we will also discuss the criteria for suitable council homes and the application process for qualifying individuals.

Who Can Apply For A Council House?

Anyone can apply for a council house as long as they fulfil the below eligibility criteria:

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

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

However, applicants who fall into any of the below categories, will not be able to apply for council housing and even if you do, your application will be refused during the verification process:

  • someone who has rent arrears or dispute regarding rental payments with their current landlord (whether social or private)
  • an applicant with a previous history of anti-social behaviour
  • homeowners are not allowed to apply for council housing (unless they are leaving their home due to poor living conditions or a relationship breakdown)

Applicants who believe that they have been refused the right to apply for council housing in error should email their council office at the earliest and share their concerns along with evidence that supports their claim. 

What Is A Suitable Council House To Apply For?

A suitable council house is one that meets your housing needs while providing just the right amount of space so that neither are you living in an uncomfortable, overcrowded space; nor do you have extra bedrooms that could have been used better if the council house was assigned to another household.

If your council housing application is based on medical grounds, a suitable council house would be one that is adapted to the medical or disability needs that you or a family member has. Elderly council housing tenants would prefer ground floor properties so that climbing stairs can be avoided; while some of them would need a council house with a wet room.

To have a fair idea of how local councils allocate council properties to tenants we will review the classification that they consider in comparing the family size versus the size of a council house that they are eligible for:

Family SizeType of Council Property
Single people/couplesSingle bedroom flat/house
Single people/couples with part-time access to children (meaning they must stay overnight for at least 2 nights a week)Two bedroom flat
Disabled family member with a medical housing recommendation for adaptations such as a through floor lift or a stairlift.Adapted properties
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 houseHouses (with two or more bedrooms)
People aged 60 years old, or younger applicants with an appropriate medical housing recommendation (e.g. ground floor accommodation)Bungalows
People aged 60 and over needing an alarm call system and warden service, as well as younger applicants with a medical housing recommendation for sheltered accommodation. Retirement Life

How Can I Apply For A Council House?

To apply for council housing, candidates must apply to their local council (mostly online), which will then consider the application based on their criteria for awarding priority to those from certain demographics and/or social classes. 

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 waiting list size.

Candidates are advised to share as many relevant details as possible in their application and also include any supporting evidence to back up their claims. This may include medical reports or doctor’s notes, in case the application is being raised on medical grounds. 

Details of the following may be required:

  • income and/or benefits
  • employment history
  • long-term medical conditions or disabilities
  • savings 
  • assets in possession such as automobile
  • visas or immigration documents (if the applicant is not from the UK)


This blogpost clearly outlines the eligibility criteria for council housing as an adult British citizen who is low on income and savings with a local connection to the area who is seeking affordable housing. While this is a board classification, anyone who is out of work, in fear of homelessness, or faced with a mental or physical illness or disability can apply for a council house or have someone apply on their behalf.  

FAQs: Who Can Apply For A Council House?

How much savings can you have to get a council house?

In order to qualify for getting a council house, your savings must be less than £50,000. In addition to this, you should also not be a homeowner as it would disqualify you from applying for a council house.

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

Depending on the priority rank assigned to applicants as well as the size of the council housing accommodation that they need, it can take around a year’s time to find a studio or 1 bedroom council flat while it can take up to 3 to 4 years to find a 4 bedroom council house on rent.

Is social housing better than private?

Social housing is cheaper in rent as compared to private property. While social housing is built in a more spacious manner, private housing is more modern in its layout and design.

What happens if you lie to get a council house?

If you lie to get a council house, not only can you lose your current tenancy with them, you will not be allowed to apply for council housing in the future. If the fraud is a serious one, you may be penalised with a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.

Which borough has the most council houses?

Becontree Council Housing Estate which was built between 1921-35 in The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham has the most number of council houses. It is estimated that there are around 26,000 council properties in the borough with a population of more than 100,000.


Qualifying and priority criteria for social housing – Wandsworth Borough Council

Getting a council home – Citizens Advice

Who can join the housing register – Shelter England

Council housing: Apply for a council home

How to apply for a council house

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