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.

Did you find this helpful?

Rydym yn ymddiheuro na fedrwn ddarparu’r wybodaeth yma yn Gymraeg, ond os hoffech siarad ag ymgynghorydd yn Gymraeg yna cysylltwch ar 08000 495 495.
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.

This page was last updated on: Ebrill 20, 2023

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.