Renting Council and Social Housing | Housing Options


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Renting and social housing

Whether you're already renting and looking to move somewhere new, or you’re considering renting a property for the first time, you can find out more about your options here. 

What should I consider before renting privately?

If you want to rent privately, remember that rents are often high and can increase every year. You’ll probably also have to pay a security deposit and advance rent. It’s important to budget for this.

Most private rented property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy. This means the landlord has the right to end your tenancy after six months or at the end of a longer fixed term.

You can find housing to rent using local newspapers, websites or a letting agency. Letting agencies may charge fees, but they can’t charge you just for registering your name or giving you a list of properties. 

What is social housing?

Social housing is lower-cost rented housing provided by landlords registered with the Regulator of Social Housing, known as social landlords. Social landlords can be a local council or a housing association. The social housing provided by councils is sometimes referred to as 'council housing'. 

Social housing is likely to be cheaper than privately rented housing and can also offer greater security from eviction. It may be a good option if you need an accessible or adapted property.

Find your local council

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Who qualifies for social housing?

In many areas, social housing (council housing and housing association accommodation) is allocated by the council. This means that the council has a waiting list of people who are interested.

Your local council will have a policy on who qualifies for social housing and who gets priority for this – its housing allocation policy. You can ask to see this free of charge.

People who are seen to have the greatest need will be given the highest priority. Some councils also say that you must have lived in their area for a certain number of years to qualify.

The housing allocation policy also applies to people who want to rent sheltered housing.

Find out about renting sheltered housing from your local council

How do I make an application for social housing?

To apply to join the waiting list for social housing, you'll have to provide information such as where you live now, your health, your savings and your income. The council will use this information to decide your level of priority. Priority is based on your needs, such as if you're moving because of disability or long-term illness or health condition. Ask them what priority you are likely to get and how long you might have to wait. 

Many councils operate choice-based lettings. This means that the council publishes all available accommodation through local newspapers, newsletters or websites. You then express your interest in a home that looks suitable.

Applying for accessible social housing

Scope has more information on applying for accessible housing if you're disabled or have a long-term illness or health condition. They advise on filling out the application form, asking for home adaptations and advocacy services. 

How do I rent from a housing association?

Many housing associations have an agreement with the local council that they'll offer housing to people already on the council’s waiting list, although some associations accept direct applications. Ask your council if they have a list of housing associations that accept direct applications in your area.

If you want to rent directly from a housing association, check what type of tenancy you'd get. You may find it’s less secure than the tenancy you would get through the council’s waiting list.

What are my rights as a tenant?

Your rights as a tenant will depend on what sort of tenancy you have.

Your right to stay

  • Private rented property – Your right to stay in a rented property depends on the type of tenancy you have and whether it's fixed-term or not. For the first six months of your tenancy – or the length of any fixed term – you can only be evicted in certain circumstances, such as antisocial behaviour. 
  • Social housing – most council tenants have a 'secure' tenancy and most housing association tenants have an 'assured' tenancy. If you have a lifetime secure or assured tenancy, then your landlord needs a good reason to evict you, for example if you owe money or you're accused of antisocial behaviour.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, then your landlord can end the tenancy at the end of the fixed period.

If your landlord says they want you to leave, seek advice immediately. You may be able to challenge this or get help to find a new home. Your landlord can only evict you if they get a possession order from the court – the court may refuse to evict you.

Your right to challenge your rent

Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you may have rights regarding what your landlord can charge you, when your rent can be increased and by how much.

For example, if you have an assured tenancy of a fixed period of time, your landlord can’t increase your rent during the fixed period unless you agree to it.

Your right to repairs

As a tenant, you have certain rights to have repairs carried out. This may be spelt out in your tenancy agreement but even if your tenancy agreement doesn't mention it, the law says that the landlord is responsible for certain repairs. These include repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, and some interior installations, such as the boiler and electrical wiring.

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Last updated: Jun 21 2024

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