Finding a place to live

Finding a place to live

Use the pages below to work out what your options are and how to find a place that is suitable for you.

Be realistic about what you can afford and what is available.

If you are under 25, and looking for a place of your own, take a look at our Setting up your first home advice, specifically put together for young people.

Transfers between secure contract-holders

Transfers between secure contract-holders

  • If you have a secure occupation contract with a community landlord you can swap your home with another secure contract-holder if they have a community landlord.
  • This is known as a ‘transfer to another secure contract-holder’.
  • This is a fundamental term of all secure contracts, as long as your landlord is a community landlord (i.e. a council or a housing association)

Transfer to another secure contract-holder

If you have a secure contract with a community landlord it is a fundamental term of your contract that you can swap your home with another secure contract-holder in Wales, as long as they have a community landlord. This used to be referred to as “mutual exchange” but is now called a “transfer to another secure contract-holder”.

The right to swap your home with another secure contract-holder in this way also applies to you if you moved in before 1 Dec 2022 and have a converted secure contract.

A transfer between secure contract-holders is different to applying for a waiting list transfer because your housing needs have changed. This is where you apply to the housing register for another community landlord property. Find out more here.

Do I need my landlord’s permission to swap my home?

You will need your landlord’s consent to swap your home but your landlord can only refuse to give consent if there is a good reason. The law states what your landlord can take into account, for example:

  • your landlord has started eviction proceedings
  • you, someone who lives with you, or a visitor has engaged in antisocial behaviour
  • your home is adapted for a person with special requirements and nobody in the new contract-holder’s household has those requirements
  • the home you want to move to is larger than your household needs
  • the home you want to move to is too small for your household and you would be overcrowded
  • you have rent arrears (your landlord may tell you that rent arrears must be paid before you can swap your home)
  • the succession rights of the person/s you want to swap with

This is not a full list of the circumstances your landlord can take into account. You can find out more about landlord’s consent here.

Get help if your landlord doesn’t give you permission to swap. An adviser may be able to negotiate with your landlord so the swap can go ahead or can submit an appeal against the decision.

The swap must be arranged properly and the contract-holder or tenant you are swapping with will also need consent from their landlord. If you go ahead and swap without both landlord’s permission, you could both lose your homes.  

You may be able to swap your home with a secure or assured tenant from elsewhere in the U.K. Your community landlord should have a policy about swapping your home with another contract-holder, or swapping with a council or housing association tenant elsewhere in the U.K. They should provide you with a copy if you ask for it. Their policy must follow what the law says. If you are unsure, get help.

Who qualifies to swap homes with another secure contract-holder?

To swap secure occupation contracts in Wales, you must be:

You can’t swap secure contracts if you:

How do I find someone to swap  my secure contract with?

Contract-holders arrange transfers between secure contracts themselves, often with the help of a dedicated ‘homeswap’ website, such as:

Some sites charge a fee for registration. Ask your landlord if they have an arrangement that allows you to use a home swap website for free.

When you register online to use a homeswap website you are asked for details about your current home, the kind of home you’re looking for and where you want to live. Include photographs if you can.

Once you have registered, you can get details of properties, make contact with other contract-holders or tenants and arrange to view their homes.

There may also be dedicated ‘homeswap’ groups on social media sites, such as Facebook.

When you find a suitable property and you and the other contract-holder or tenant is happy to swap, you must make a written request to ask your landlord’s consent. The person you want to swap with must do the same with their landlord.

Your landlord has 1 month to decide whether or not to give you permission to swap your contract. If your landlord asks for more information from you before they make a decision, they have 1 month from the time you provide the information they asked for. Find out more here. If you get no decision within this time, get help.

What rights do I have if I swap my home?

Before you agree to swap your secure contract with another contract-holder or tenant:

  • check what type of occupation contract (or tenancy if you are moving elsewhere in the U.K.) you will be taking over in your new home. You may have different rights with your new agreement, especially if the new home is not in Wales where there are different types of tenancy
  • check if any repair or redecoration is needed. When you swap, you accept the property in the condition you find it
  • find out how much rent you will pay
  • don’t make or accept any payment for swapping with the other contract-holder or tenant. This is illegal and you could be prosecuted and evicted.

If you are swapping with a secure council tenant or assured housing association tenant elsewhere in the U.K. you might have to sign a “deed of assignment” in order for the swap to be legally binding. This is a legal document that must be signed by an independent witness.

If you are swapping with another secure contract-holder in Wales, signing a deed is not necessary, but your community landlord will ask you to sign a new occupation contract and other relevant paperwork. If you are uncertain about what you  are being asked to sign, get help.

Applying for a waiting list transfer

Applying for a waiting list transfer

If you have an occupation contract with a community landlord and need to move to a new community landlord home because your housing needs have changed, you might be able to apply to the waiting list to be transferred to a more suitable property. This is known as a ‘waiting list transfer’.

A waiting list transfer is different to a transfer between secure contract-holders, where you arrange to swap your home with another secure contract-holder.

How to apply for an waiting list transfer

Contact your community landlord to apply for a waiting list transfer. You will be asked to fill in a form or register online.

Every council or community landlord should provide free information about how to apply for a waiting list transfer and how this scheme works.

You will be asked for information about why you need to move. Explain in detail any special needs, difficulties or problems you or your family have – for example a health condition that makes your current home unsuitable. Enclose copies of any evidence that you have (such as photographs, letters from your doctor etc.)

If your application is accepted onto the waiting list, you will usually be on the same waiting list as other households applying for community landlord housing. This is often referred to as the housing register. Your level of priority is usually assessed in the same way. You can find out more information from our general advice page about community landlord waiting lists.

Your chances of getting a waiting list transfer will depend on:

  • the reasons you want to move
  • whether your landlord has accommodation of the right size – larger homes are usually in short supply
  • whether you need a home that has been adapted – in this situation you may have to wait longer.

Who qualifies for an waiting list transfer?

You should check with your council or community landlord to see if you are able to apply for a waiting list transfer. Some housing list policies might require you to have a secure contract.

You probably can’t apply for a transfer if you:

Get help if your housing needs have changed and you have been told you can’t apply for a waiting list transfer. An adviser may be able to help you get accepted onto the waiting list. You may be able to make a homelessness application if it is no longer reasonable for you to live in your home.

Priority for a waiting list transfer

You may be entitled to priority for a waiting list transfer if:

  • you are living in very poor conditions (for example, your home is in serious disrepair or lacks basic washing / cooking facilities)
  • your family has grown and your home is now overcrowded
  • your current home is no longer suited to your needs because you are ill or have a disability
  • you need to move to a particular area to avoid hardship (for example, you suffer with a mental health illness and you need to be close to people who support you).

In some cases, you may also get priority if:

  • your home is now too big for your household, for example because your children have left home
  • you are under-occupying your home, and since the introduction of the bedroom tax you can no longer afford the rent.

Your application for a transfer should be dealt with using the same rules that apply to other people applying for a community landlord home. See our page on Who gets priority? for more details.

How long will a waiting list transfer take?

Waiting list transfers can take a long time. There is no guarantee that you will get the home you want. There is a shortage of property in most areas.

To speed up the process, you may need to be flexible about what you are prepared to accept.

Waiting list transfers to a different area

You may be able to transfer to an occupation contract in another area, for example to be near a special school or other service.

If you have been accepted for a waiting list transfer by your local council, ask them whether they can put your application to a community landlord in a different area. This is often referred to as being ‘nominated’. Councils sometimes have ‘nomination agreements’ with community landlords in different areas.

It might also be possible to apply directly to a council or community landlord waiting list in a different area. However, some councils may give you less priority if you do not have a local connection.

You can be on the waiting list in different areas at the same time, but if you are homeless, only one council will deal with your homelessness application.

What can I do if I am unhappy with the decision about my transfer application?

If you are unhappy about a decision that has been made about your application for a waiting list transfer, you might be able to ask for that decision to be reviewed.

Transfer applicants should be treated in the same way as people who are applying for community landlord accommodation for the first time, so they should be given the same rights to challenge any decision. Take a look at our page on Challenging allocation decisions to see what you can do.

If you need help challenging a decision then get help from Shelter Cymru as soon as possible. You usually have to ask for any review within 21 days of receiving the decision so make sure you don’t delay.

Swapping homes with another secure contract-holder

You might have a better chance of moving home if you consider an transfer with another secure contract-holder with another community landlord contract-holder.

Get help from Shelter Cymru if you are not sure whether to apply for a waiting list transfer or to swap homes with another secure contract-holder.

What can you do if you are unhappy with a decision?

What can you do if you are unhappy with a decision?

If you are unhappy about a decision that has been made about your application for community landlord accommodation, you may be able to take action.

Which decisions can be challenged?

You can take action if you are not happy because:

  • you disagree with a decision that’s been made about your case, for example because you’ve been given low priority on the waiting list, or
  • you think you have been treated unfairly or discriminated against, or
  • you are unhappy with the way your application was processed, for example if they took an unreasonably long time to make a decision.

Asking for a review

A review is where the council or community landlord looks at your application again. A review must be carried out by a different and more senior person than the original decision.

Do I have a right to ask for a review?

You have a right to ask for a review of :

  • any decision made by the council or community landlord about the facts of your case
  • a decision that you are ineligible to be considered for housing, whether because of antisocial behaviour or because of immigration status.

You can ask for a review in other situations, but the council or community landlord doesn’t necessarily have to agree to carry out the review. This would be the case if you want to review:

  • a decision that an offer of housing is suitable
  • a decision about a points/banding award or recommendation made by the council’s medical adviser
  • a decision about your priority for housing.

What do I need to consider before asking for a review?

Always get help before asking for a review. If you have a right to a review, you must usually ask for it within 21 days of receiving the decision; so make sure you do this quickly.

If you have been offered a home, and you refuse it while the review takes place, you could lose that offer and your place on the waiting list. Bear in mind that just because you don’t like a decision doesn’t mean that it is wrong and a review may reach the same decision – or, in some cases, a worse decision.

Using the official complaints procedure

If you are not happy with the outcome of any review, or, the council or community landlord have refused to carry out a review, you might be able to use their own complaints procedure. Contact the council or community landlord to find out how to make an official complaint.

Complaining to the Ombudsman

If you have a complaint you can contact the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

The Ombudsman is independent and investigates complaints about council and community landlords not doing something they should have done or doing things in the wrong way. It can look into the way the council or community landlord dealt with your application to make sure that it acted fairly and followed the correct procedures.

Usually you will have to make a formal complaint to the council or community landlord before the Ombudsman will consider your complaint.

Examples of complaints the Ombudsman can deal with include situations where the council or community landlord:

  • took an overly long time to come to a decision
  • discriminated against you when it made its decision
  • gave you bad or misleading advice.

You have to complain in writing and should include copies of any evidence that supports your complaint, such as letters from the council or community landlord.

Have a look at the Ombudsman fact sheet on Housing Allocation for further guidance.

Applying to court for a judicial review

Judicial review is a type of legal case that can be used to challenge the way that decisions have been made by public organisations such as the council or a community landlord. It is used to challenge the way that decisions have been made, rather than the decisions themselves.

Even if the judicial review is successful, the court can’t impose its own decision on your case (for example, it can’t award your housing application higher points or banding ), but it can overturn the council or community landlord’s decision and make them look at it again.

Judicial review is very complicated, so you should get help before taking any action.

You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you are on certain benefits or have a low income. Shelter Cymru has a legal team who can tell you whether you have a good case and, if so, might be able to help and represent you. Get help from a Shelter Cymru adviser who can refer you to the legal team as necessary.

You may also contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345.

Have any papers you received from the council or community landlord with you when you speak to an adviser.

Getting an offer

Waiting for an offer

  • Each council has it’s own policy about how it offers properties in it’s area.
  • The policy should tell you how you will be made an offer and give you an idea about how long you are likely to have to wait.
  • Depending on your situation, it can take many months, or even years, to be offered a community landlord property.

How do I find out what my council’s allocation policy is?

Each council has its own policy that explains how community landlord housing is allocated. This is often called a ‘housing allocations policy’.

The policy should tell you:

  • who can apply to go on the waiting list
  • which groups of people get priority
  • how long you have to live in an area to get on the waiting list
  • the size of property you will be considered for.

You should be able to find your council’s allocation policy on its website. Click here to find your local council. Leaflets explaining the allocations policy are usually available at libraries and council offices.

How long will I have to wait for an offer?

Your chances of getting an offer and how quickly you might get one depend on:

  • what is available in the areas you have asked to live in
  • the type and size of property you need (many areas have very few family sized houses available, for example)
  • how many people have higher priority (known as ‘preference’) than you on the waiting list.

In some areas there is a lot of housing available and you may get an offer quite quickly. But in popular areas, you may have to wait for years. If you don’t have much priority, you may have little realistic hope of being offered a place at all. You may need to look at other options, such as renting from a private landlord or applying as homeless, particularly if you need to move quickly.

You have the right to ask the council or community landlord whether you are likely be offered a home and, if so, approximately how long it is likely to take. They probably won’t be able to tell you exactly how long it will take, but should give you a rough idea.

Will I get a choice?

Councils usually allocate community landlord properties through either:

  • a ‘choice based lettings’ (CBL) scheme, or
  • a direct offer from the waiting list.

Your council might use either system or a combination of both.

Most areas have a ‘common housing register’, so you only need to make one application which would cover all community landlord housing in the council area.

In areas that do not have a common housing register covering all community landlord housing in the area, you might need to apply directly to local housing associations. If the council also have properties you might also need to apply to  their list which will just cover housing managed by the council. Ask your council for details of any housing associations operating separate waiting lists in the area.

What does ‘choice based lettings’ mean?

If your council operates a CBL scheme, ask them for information about the rules. They vary from one area to another, but in most areas CBL schemes work as follows:

  • Available properties are advertised locally, often in leaflets or newsletters available from local libraries, housing offices and community centres. There may also be a special website advertising properties in your area. To avoid missing out, check these regularly and stick to any deadlines for bids.
  • The available properties will say which type of household can bid for it (ie if it is for an elderly or disabled person, or for a household who needs a certain number of bedrooms).
  • You can then apply (or ‘bid’) for any particular properties that you like. In most areas, you can bid online, by phone, by text or by post. Different councils have different rules about how many properties you can bid for in one go.
  • The scheme then sorts the bids it receives in order of priority, and the person with the highest priority normally gets first refusal on the property.
  • If that person turns the offer down, the next person on the list gets the chance to see it, and so on. In some areas, more than one person may be invited to view the property at the same time.
  • If you refuse a property, the whole process starts again. However, some schemes will penalise you (ie. by reducing your priority) if you turn down several offers, or don’t make any bids at all.

If you’re worried that your priority may be reduced because you don’t bid for any of the properties that are advertised, speak to your council about the rules, and get help.

How many offers will I get?

You do not have to be given more than one offer of housing. When you make your application, ask how many offers you will get – some councils will only offer you one property.

Even if your council does have a policy of offering more than one property, you may have to refuse one before you are offered another – you are unlikely to be given a choice. You may also have to tell them why you’re turning the property down, which may cause problems if they think you didn’t have a good reason. Get help and ask what their policy on refusals is before you decide.

What if I am offered somewhere unsuitable?

Any community landlord housing offered to you should be suitable for you and your household, as defined in their allocation scheme. A number of things should be taken into account in a decision about whether a property is suitable, such as:

  • where the property is
  • what condition it is in
  • whether it is the right size for your household
  • whether you will be able to afford it
  • social factors (such as whether it is close enough to any support services, or special schools that you need access to)
  • whether it will affect your health (eg. if you have difficulty getting up stairs)
  • whether you’d be at risk of racial harassment or domestic violence there.

All of these issues should be looked at, along with any effect that moving to the accommodation would have on the health and welfare of your whole household. You should only be offered accommodation that is suitable for you.

If you don’t believe the offer is suitable, you can ask for a review of the decision. However, as there’s so much demand for social housing, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be offered something better, and, if the review decides that the property was ‘suitable’ you may not be entitled to another offer.

If you want to challenge the suitability of an offer, get help from Shelter Cymru Act quickly as there are time limits which apply.

Who gets priority?

Who gets priority?

  • Community landlord waiting lists don’t work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
  • By law, priority must be given to certain groups of people, such as people who are legally classed as homeless.
  • Priority can also be given to other groups of people within a council area.

How do I know if I will be given priority?

Each council will have it’s own policy which says who gets priority for social housing in their area. This is usually called an ‘allocations policy’. To decide how much priority you get, your application should be assessed using the housing allocations policy.

By law, priority must be given to certain groups of people. This is called giving ‘reasonable preference’.

Each council can also decide who else gets priority within its area, and how much priority they get.

Being given ‘reasonable preference’ does not guarantee you a place. There might be a long waiting list and limited places available.

Many councils produce leaflets explaining their allocations policy. You can find these at the council’s office, or in libraries and community centres. You should also be able to find details online. Click on Gov.uk to find your local council’s website.

Priority if you are homeless or about to lose your home

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness in the next 56 days, you should be given reasonable preference on the waiting list for a community landlord home.

You are also likely to be eligible to receive some help and advice from the council’s homelessness department, possibly including some emergency accommodation. If you have not already done so, ask to make a homelessness application.

Priority if you are living in very poor conditions

You may be given reasonable preference if your home:

  • is in serious disrepair
  • is overcrowded
  • is insanitary (ie. it doesn’t have proper drainage and sewerage)
  • lacks basic washing and cooking facilities.

The council will need to visit your home to inspect it and assess how bad the conditions are before it decides how much priority you should get. Some housing allocations policies have a scale of priority for poor conditions. If your situation is urgent because your home is in such bad condition that it is dangerous or potentially damaging to your health, you may be given higher priority (this is known as ‘additional preference’).

Priority if you need to move for medical or welfare reasons

You may get reasonable preference if anyone in your household:

  • has health problems that are made worse by where you live
  • has mobility problems that make it difficult to get around your home
  • suffers from a mental illness or depression, that is made worse by your accommodation
  • needs to move for social reasons, for example, a care leaver, or other vulnerable person, needing somewhere stable to live.

When you apply you should give as much information as possible about your health or social problems and how they are affected by where you are living. Explain the difficulties any medical condition causes in as much detail as you can. The council may contact your GP and you should include details of any other health worker or social worker who can support your application.

An assessment of your care or support needs should be carried out to make sure that any accommodation is right for you.

Priority if you need to live in the area to avoid hardship

You should also be given reasonable preference if you can show that there are special social or welfare reasons why you need to live in a particular area. This might be the case if, for example:

  • you or someone in your household is studying at a special school in the area
  • you need to be able to access specialist medical treatment or support in the area (for example if you’re leaving care and need to be close to people who can support you)
  • you need to be close to a relative so that you can look after her/him (or s/he can look after you)
  • you need to move to take up a specific job or training.

Extra priority if you have an urgent housing need

If you fit into any of the ‘reasonable preference’ groups outlined above, you may also be given ‘additional preference’ if you have an urgent housing need. This is like being given a head-start. An urgent housing need might be because:

  • you are homeless because you’re at risk of domestic or other abuse
  • you are homeless because you’ve been a witness or victim of crime and are at risk of intimidation
  • you are homeless because of harassment, threats or being attacked in the area due to your race, sexuality, gender, disability or religion
  • you need to move because of urgent medical needs and your property is unsuitable, or you need to move to receive care (this could be because you or a member of your household, has a life-threatening illness)
  • you are being discharged from hospital and the accommodation available is unsuitable (this applies to others in your household)
  • you need accommodation because you have left Armed Forces accommodation, or have a medical condition or disability caused by serving with the Armed Forces
  • your housing benefit has reduced because of the bedroom tax and you can no longer afford the rent. You would like to move to a smaller, more affordable, property.

These are just some examples. You might be given ‘additional preference’ for other reasons. All of your circumstances should be considered in deciding if you have an urgent housing need. Make sure you explain why you need to move, and what might happen if you don’t.

If you’ve been involved in antisocial behaviour

If the council believes that you, or any member of your household, have been involved in antisocial behaviour, they can take away any priority you have been given. This includes any ‘reasonable’ or ‘additional preference’ you have been given for the reasons outlined above.

When it makes a decision about this, the council will use the same criteria as it uses when assessing whether or not you are eligible. If the council decides that your priority should be taken away, they should write and tell you. If you get a letter about taking away your priority then you should get help. An adviser can look into your situation and may be able to help you show the council that what happened was not your fault, or was outside of your control.

If you have previously had your priority taken away but your circumstances have now changed (for example, you have not engaged in antisocial behaviour for a long time, or the person who was involved in anti-social behaviour has now left), then you can ask to make a fresh application.

When the council can reduce or take away priority

The council can only do this in certain situations, such as if:

  • you’ve behaved anti-socially since you first made your application (see above)
  • you have moved and the conditions in your new accommodation are better
  • you have moved to settled accommodation and are no longer homeless
  • you have recovered from an illness which gave you extra priority
  • you can afford to buy or rent accommodation for yourself.

If the council wants to take away your priority for any other reason and you don’t think it’s fair, get help.

What if I don’t think I’ve been given enough priority?

You can ask the council to review your application and make a new decision. It’s worth getting help first, as an adviser may be able to help you put together your case. For instance, you may need to arrange for a medical report to show how your health problems are affected by your current housing situation.

Who is eligible to apply for a community landlord home?

GAZA UPDATE

In response to the outbreak of violence in Israel that commenced 7 October 2023, there has been an important change in law.

This change helps certain groups of people fleeing the violence to receive housing assistance.

The following people are now eligible for homelessness assistance and community landlord housing without having to satisfy the conditions of the ‘habitual residence test’:
People arriving in Wales who are subject to immigration control:

  • who were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023 and left in connection with the attack on 7 October 2023 or the violence which rapidly escalated in the region following the attack;
  • who have been granted leave in accordance with the immigration rules;
  • whose leave is not subject to a condition requiring them to maintain and accommodate themselves, and any person dependent upon them, without recourse to public funds, and
  • whose leave was not given as a result of an undertaking that a sponsor would be responsible for the person’s maintenance and accommodation.

People not subject to immigration control:

  • who were residing in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon immediately before 7 October 2023 and left in connection with the attack on 7 October 2023 or the violence which rapidly escalated in the region following the attack.

If you have arrived from Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon elsewhere in the United Kingdom, please check Shelter England, Shelter Scotland, or Housing Advice Northern Ireland for updates.

Who is eligible to apply?

  • Eligibility for a community landlord home depends on your nationality, immigration status and if you’ve recently lived abroad.
  • In Wales, it can also depend on your past behaviour.

What does ‘being eligible’ mean?

Being eligible for a housing allocation means that you qualify to apply for social housing from a community landlord. You won’t be allowed onto a list for social housing list with a community landlord if:

  • you are not eligible, or
  • you are treated as not eligible because of serious unacceptable behaviour.

If you live in the UK, are a British citizen and have not recently spent time living in other countries you will almost certainly be  ‘eligible’.

There are two main groups of people who may not be eligible. These are:

  • people who may have rights to live here but have spent time living somewhere else and aren’t considered to be ‘habitually resident’
  • people who are not British citizens and/or don’t have full rights to live here because of their immigration status.

If your husband, wife, civil partner or parent is eligible, you may be eligible yourself (even if your relationship has ended).

Being eligible doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to be offered a place. It means that you are entitled to be considered for a home and to go on the waiting list. In many areas, there is very little housing available, so there is often a very long wait, and some people may never get an offer.

People from abroad

Only certain people from abroad are eligible to apply for a community landlord home.

Eligibility depends on whether you are a person ‘subject to immigration control’.

People who are subject to immigration control

If you are subject to immigration control you are not eligible for community landlord housing in Wales, unless:

  • you are a refugee
  • you have exceptional leave to remain in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland, and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’
  • you are habitually resident in the UK and your leave was granted without any conditions (this includes EEA nationals granted ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme).
  • you have humanitarian protection
  • you have temporary leave to remain in the UK because you are a victim of human trafficking or slavery.
  • you have come to the UK from Hong Kong and fall within a certain category of people with limited leave (you also need to be habitully resident in the UK).
  • you are an Afghan citizen who falls within a certain category of person granted leave.
  • you left Afghanistan due to the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021.
  • you were living in Ukraine and left due to the outbreak of violence in February 2022, or were living in the UK at that time and qualified under the ‘Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme’ or ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’.
  • you were living in Sudan and left due to the outbreak of violence in April 2023.
  • you were living in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Lebanon and left due to the outbreak of violence throughout the region in October 2023. 
  • you have limited leave to remain in the UK on the grounds of ‘respect for family or private life’ under Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

You are not eligible for community landlord housing if your immigration status means you have ‘no recourse to public funds’.

People who are not subject to immigration control

If you are a person from abroad who is not subject to immigration control, you are eligible for community landlord housing in Wales if:

  • you are a classed as a ‘worker’ (or are a member of a worker’s family)
  • you are self employed (or a member of family of someone who is self-employed)
  • you, or a member of your family, have the right to stay here for other reasons

People from the European Economic Area (EEA) whose only right to reside in the UK is as a jobseeker, or who only have an initial right to reside for 3 months, are not eligible to apply for social housing. See our page on EU and EEA nationals for more information.

The council may contact the UK Visa and Immigration Centre if there is any doubt about your status.

UK citizens who have lived abroad

You may not be eligible to apply for community landlord housing immediately if you have been living outside the UK, Eire, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man for a lengthy period. This is because community landlords can only provide housing through an allocations scheme for people who are classed as ‘habitually resident’. When they assess your application, the council or other community landlord will decide whether you are habitually resident, and will look at things like:

  • where you live
  • where you work
  • where you have family or friends
  • the reasons why you have come to live in the area
  • where you intend to live in future
  • whether you have been ‘habitually resident’ in the past.

If it is decided that you’re not habitually resident, get help. The decision could affect your entitlement to benefits as well as your rights to housing.

Transfer applicants

If you already have a secure contract or an introductory standard contract with a community landlord, and are applying for a transfer, you are eligible regardless of your immigration status.

More advice

Immigration law is extremely complicated, so get advice before you apply for housing if you are not sure of your status:

Can past behaviour be taken into account?

You may not be eligible to go on the housing register if it is decided that you, or any member of your household, have been guilty of antisocial behaviour in the past. This may be the case if:

  • you have caused nuisance or annoyance to your neighbours, the landlord or contractors
  • you have used a property for illegal purposes (such as drug dealing)
  • you have been guilty of domestic violence.

In some cases, instead of deciding you are not eligible, the council may agree to put you on the housing register, but not give you any priority when deciding who to house.

What can I do if they say I am not eligible?

If you are in one of the situations outlined above, the council or community landlord you have applied to has no obligation to offer you a home.

They should write to you explaining their decision and the reasons for it. They should also explain to you that you have a right to ask for the decision to be reviewed. They should explain it to you in person if they think that you might not be able to understand the decision.

Asking for a review

You can ask for the decision about your application to be looked at again. This is called a ‘review‘. This might be worthwhile if you think your behaviour was not serious enough to mean you’re not eligible, or it happened so long ago that it shouldn’t count.

Applying for a judicial review

If the correct legal procedure hasn’t been followed when the decision about your application was made, or when dealing with your review, then you might be able to challenge this in court by judicial review. For example, if  relevant information has been ignored, such as how long you have been in the UK, or things that shouldn’t have affected the decision, such as non-housing debts, were taken into account.

You will need specialist help from a solicitor if you want to challenge the decision by judicial review.

Take a look at our page on challenging allocation decisions for more advice.

Making a fresh application

You can make a new application for the housing register if your circumstances change. This may be worthwhile if:

  • your immigration status changes after a time in the UK
  • you have paid off past rent arrears, or
  • you have not behaved in an unacceptable way for a long time, or the person guilty of that behaviour is no longer part of your household.

If the council do not let you apply again, then get help.

How to find a place to rent privately

How to find a private rented home


Find out how to find a place to rent privately and what to consider when thinking about where to rent.


How to find a private rented home


Search online
Many landlords and letting agencies advertise online. Popular national websites include:

Zoopla

Rightmove

Prime Location

These sites mostly advertise properties that are being let by a letting agent on behalf of a landlord. It is a good idea to check if the agent will manage the property while you live there, or whether the landlord will manage the property directly.

Other websites, such as Spareroom and Gumtree allow users to place ads directly. If you are searching for a property on this type of website, be aware that you could have fewer legal rights if the occupancy is a lodger’s agreement or sub-occupation contract. Make sure you check the contract before you sign. You should also check whether the property is registered with Rent Smart Wales and whether a Rent Smart Wales licence-holder will be managing the property. If the advertisement is for a lodger, the property does not need to be registered and licensed.

You may also find local websites or social media sites advertising places to rent.

Use a letting agent
Use a letting agency to help you find a home to rent.  It is an offence for a landlord or letting agent to charge most ‘admin’ or letting fees so always get help before paying any fees.

Check or advertise locally
Look in local papers, magazines, shop windows and notice boards. You could also place an advert yourself.

Contact your local council
Your local council housing options service should be able to help you (especially if you need a landlord who accepts benefits or you are on a low income).


What sort of place are you looking for?


Private rented housing can vary greatly in quality, size, price and services. Think carefully about the sort of place that will suit you.

You need to be realistic about what you are prepared to accept. In some areas of the country it is easy to find affordable places to rent but in other areas there may be very little available within your price range.


How to follow up an advert


Private places often let quickly. If you find somewhere you like:

  • ring the landlord or letting agent as soon as you can
  • ask as much as possible about the property to decide whether it is suitable
  • ask the landlord if they are registered and have a licence under the Rent Smart Wales scheme. If you are dealing with a letting agent, ask the agent if they have a licence
  • arrange to visit the accommodation as soon as possible – before you agree to anything
  • get another person to go with you to view the property and let someone else know where you are going
  • have details of referees or references ready
  • be prepared to pay a holding deposit (but don’t carry large amounts of cash and always get a receipt) and be sure you view the property before handing over any money.

Check out our ‘Staying safe renting a property_10 Top Tips‘.


‘No DSS’ policies


It is discrimination for a letting agent to refuse to rent to you because you are on benefits or have a ‘no DSS’ policy. If this happens to you, use our Challenging DSS Discrimination toolkit to find out what you can do.

Have a look at this Open Doors project YouTube video to find out more about discrimination in private rented housing.


What to look for when going to a viewing


During the viewing, check that:

  • the property is secure
  • the heating, lighting and plumbing works
  • any furniture is in a good state of repair.

If other people live there, try to meet them to see if you will get on with them.

Take a look at our Viewing a property checklist for ideas about other things you should look at before deciding whether to rent a place.


What each place will cost


You should find out as much as you can about the costs of the accommodation before you agree to move in or sign anything. This includes:

  • how much is the rent?
  • does the rent include bills?
  • how much is the council tax?
  • how much are the bills (in winter and in summer)?
  • are the bills shared with other people?

Renting privately can be expensive.

Use a budget planner to work out if you can afford the accommodation.


How much you have to pay in advance


It is usual to have to pay a deposit and rent in advance, when you sign the occupation contract. Landlords normally ask for one month’s rent in advance and one month’s deposit, although it can be more than this. Make sure you ask how much these are before you sign anything.

Most letting fees for renters are banned in Wales so always check before paying anything over. For more advice on which fees are banned, click here.


Whether you can get housing benefit or universal credit


If you are on benefits or have a low income you may be able to get housing benefit or universal credit housing costs to help pay the rent. If your income isn’t too high you may be able to get help even if you are working.

You can check what the maximum housing benefit would be in your area by checking the local housing allowance for your area. But remember that you may not receive this maximum amount if your income or savings are too high.


Whether you need references


Landlords often ask potential contract-holders to provide references to prove that you are reliable and will be able to afford the rent. This usually means providing bank details and/or a letter from your employer confirming employment. Sometimes landlords request character references or references from former landlords. If you are taking on an occupation contract for the first time, a landlord might accept a reference from a parent or guardian.

You might be asked to provide a guarantor for the rent. This is more common for young people. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you do not.


What kind of occupation contract you would have


Always check what type of occupation contract you will have before you move in and ask to see the contract.

An occupation contract will state the rights and responsibilities that you and your landlord have during the contract. You should check it carefully before you sign it, and get advice if you are unsure about anything it says.

Private contract-holders usually have fewer rights than people who rent from community landlords, but all contract-holders have certain rights under the law. Your landlord can’t take away these basic rights, regardless of what your occupation contract says. Your landlord must give you a written occupation contract within 2 weeks of the contract starting, but even if they don’t you still have the same legal rights. Find out more about private renters’ rights here.

Most new private renting agreements are standard occupation contracts. Standard contracts are either fixed term standard contracts or periodic standard contracts. However, in certain rare circumstances  you could have a different type of renting agreement, meaning that you could be an excluded occupier or an occupier with basic protection. If you’re not sure what type of renting agreement you have look at our pages on private renters rights, or get help.

If you are under 25, take a look at our Setting up your first home advice page, specifically put together for young people.


We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Accommodation options chart


Tenancy Transfers

Tenancy Transfers


If you are a council or housing association tenant and want to move to a new home you can apply for a tenancy transfer.



What is a tenancy transfer?


Most council and housing association tenants can apply for a transfer.

A tenancy transfer is when your landlord allows you to move to another council or housing association property in the area.

A tenancy transfer is different to a tenancy exchange, where you arrange to swap your home with another council or housing association tenant.


How to apply for a tenancy transfer


Contact your council’s housing office or your housing association to apply for a tenancy transfer. You will be asked to fill in a form or register online.

Every council should provide free information about how to make an application for a tenancy transfer and how their transfer scheme works.

You will be asked for information about why you need to move. Explain in detail any special needs, difficulties or problems you or your family have – for example a health condition that makes your current home unsuitable. Enclose copies of any evidence that you have (such as photographs, letters from your doctor etc.)

Your chances of getting a tenancy transfer will depend on:

  • the reasons you want to move
  • whether your landlord has accommodation of the right size – larger homes are usually in short supply
  • whether you need a home that has been adapted – in this situation you may have to wait longer.

Who qualifies for a tenancy transfer?


To transfer tenancies in Wales, you must be:

You probably can’t apply for a transfer if you:

  • are a council tenant with an introductory tenancy (you will probably have to wait until the tenancy becomes secure)
  • are a council or housing association tenant whose tenancy has been demoted
  • are a housing association tenant with a starter or assured shorthold tenancy
  • rent a bedsit or hostel room from the council
  • you live in supported housing or a care home
  • you, or any member of your household, have been found guilty of serious unacceptable behaviour. See our page on eligibility for council housing for more details on what this behaviour could include.

Priority for a tenancy transfer


You may be entitled to priority for a transfer if:

  • you are living in very poor conditions (for example, your home is in serious disrepair or lacks basic washing / cooking facilities)
  • your family has grown and your home is now overcrowded
  • your current home is no longer suited to your needs because you are ill or have a disability
  • you need to move to a particular area to avoid hardship (for example, you suffer with a mental health illness and you need to be close to people who support you).

In some cases, you may also get priority if:

  • your home is now too big for your household, for example because your children have left home
  • you are under-occupying your home, and since the introduction of the bedroom tax you can no longer afford the rent.

Your application for a transfer should be dealt with using the same rules that apply to people who are applying for a council or housing association place. See our page on Who gets priority? for more details.


How long will a transfer take?


Tenancy transfers can take a long time. There is no guarantee that you will get the home you want. There is a shortage of property in most areas.

To speed up the process, you may need to be flexible about what you are prepared to accept.


Transfers to another area


You may be able to transfer to a tenancy in another area, for example to be near a special school or other service.

Ask your landlord about getting a nomination to another council or to a housing association in a different area.


What can I do if I am unhappy with the decision about my transfer application?


If you are unhappy about a decision that has been made about your application for a transfer, you might be able to ask for that decision to be reviewed.

Transfer applicants should be treated in the same way as people who have applied to the council or housing association for the first time, so they should be given the same rights to challenge any decision. Take a look at our page on Challenging allocation decisions to see what you can do.

If you need help challenging a decision then get advice from Shelter Cymru as soon as possible. You usually have to ask for any review within 21 days of receiving the decision so make sure you don’t delay.


Tenancy exchange


You might have a better chance of moving home if you consider a tenancy (mutual) exchange with another council or housing association tenant.

Get advice from Shelter Cymru if you are not sure whether to apply for a transfer or exchange.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

Tenancy Exchanges

Tenancy Exchanges


Council and housing association tenants may be able to swap their home with another council or housing association tenant.



What is a tenancy exchange?


A tenancy exchange (also called a mutual exchange) allows you to swap your home with another council or housing association tenant anywhere in the UK.

Tenants arrange tenancy exchanges themselves, often with the help of tenancy exchange websites.

You must get permission to exchange your tenancy from your landlord and follow the proper process. You could be evicted if you try to exchange your tenancy without permission.

The tenant you are swapping with must also get permission from their landlord.

A tenancy exchange is different to a tenancy transfer, where your landlord transfers you to a new tenancy in another council or housing association property.


Who qualifies for a tenancy exchange?


To exchange tenancies in Wales, you must be:

You can’t exchange tenancies if you:


How do I find a tenancy exchange?


Use a tenancy exchange website to help find another tenant to swap homes with, for example:

Some sites charge a fee for registration. Ask your landlord if they have an arrangement that allows you to use a home swap website for free.

When you register online to use a tenancy exchange service you are asked details about your current home, the kind of home you’re looking for and where you want to live. Include photographs if you can.

Once you have registered, you can get details of properties, make contact with other tenants and arrange to view their homes.

When you find a suitable property and you and the other tenant are happy to swap, you must ask your landlord for permission to exchange. The person you want to swap with must do the same with their landlord.

Your landlord has six weeks to decide whether or not to give you permission to exchange your tenancy. If you get no decision within six weeks, get advice.


What rights do I have if I exchange my tenancy?


Before you agree to a tenancy exchange:

  • check what type of tenancy you will be taking over in your new home. You may have different or fewer rights with your new tenancy, especially if the new home is in England where there are different types of tenancy
  • check if repairs or redecoration is needed. When you exchange, you accept the property in the condition you find it
  • find out how much rent you will pay
  • don’t make or accept any payment for exchanging with the other tenant. This is illegal and you could be prosecuted and evicted.

Some tenancy exchanges must be transferred using a deed of assignment. This is a legal document that must be signed by an independent witness.

Get advice from a Shelter Cymru adviser before you swap your home if you are not sure of your rights.


Can a landlord refuse permission for a tenancy exchange?


Landlords can refuse permission for a tenancy exchange if there are reasonable grounds to do this.

Reasonable grounds for refusing a tenancy exchange may include:

  • your landlord has started eviction proceedings
  • an injunction or other action to stop antisocial behaviour has been taken against you or someone living with you
  • you work for your landlord and your home was provided in connection with your job
  • your home is adapted for a person with special requirements and nobody in the new tenant’s household has those requirements
  • the home you want to move to is much larger than your household needs
  • the home you want to move to is too small for your household and you would be overcrowded
  • if you owe rent, your landlord may tell you that this must be paid off before you can exchange your home.

Get advice if your landlord doesn’t give you permission to exchange. An adviser may be able to negotiate with your landlord so the tenancy exchange can go ahead or can submit an appeal against the decision. It might be helpful to ask your landlord for a copy of their mutual exchange policy.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us