Council and housing association waiting lists

This section explains who is eligible for council housing, how to apply, and how the council decides who to house first. In most areas, these rules also apply to people applying for a housing association property in the area, and to existing council or housing association tenants who want a transfer.

If you need housing immediately (for example if your current home is unsafe, or you are homeless) the council may have a duty to help you immediately. You should tell them that you want to apply as homeless as well as applying for a permanent home.

Council housing

The system councils use to assess applications for housing is often referred to as the ‘allocations scheme’ or ‘housing register’. Procedures vary from one area to another, but all councils have to follow certain rules.

The rules explained here apply both to people applying for council housing for the first time, and to existing council tenants who want a transfer. You can get application forms and information from the housing department of your local council or from their website.

Use the Gov.uk search to find details of your local council.

Housing associations

Many councils in Wales have transferred their housing to housing associations.

If you want to get housing association accommodation, you will have to apply to go on a waiting list. Housing association homes are in short supply, so it can be difficult to get one and you will probably have to wait for some time.

In most areas, there is a central waiting list for all council and housing association properties, but some housing associations also keep their own separate waiting lists. Contact housing associations in your area to find out how to apply – you can find their details using the Community Housing Cymru website.

Make sure you also apply for an allocation through your local council. You can get application forms and information from the housing department of your local council or from their website. Use the Gov.uk search to find details of your local council.

Accessible housing

Some councils and housing associations have Accessible Housing Registers. These registers aim to :

  • identify people who might need an adapted or accessible property
  • identify potential accessible properties in their area
  • match the person with a suitable property.

Finding a suitable property can be difficult. Make sure you explain what your access needs and other requirements are so that the council or housing association can do their best to match you with something suitable. Be prepared to wait as there is a shortage of accessible housing.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published a guide Your rights to accessible and adaptable housing in Wales which might give you some tips and help on applying for accessible properties.

Not all areas operate Accessible Housing Registers so it is best to check with your council or housing association. Have a look at our page on Housing for people with special requirements for more advice.

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 0345 075 5005.

What if I need help with my application?

You can ask the council for information and advice on how to apply. All councils are required by law to provide free information on:

  • how to make an application
  • who is eligible to be considered for housing
  • how priority between applicants will be decided
  • the procedures it will follow when it looks at your application
  • what will happen when a suitable property becomes available.

Most councils will provide a leaflet explaining how their system works.

Councils also have a legal responsibility to help you if you find it difficult to apply. This could be, for example, if English is your second language or you have reading difficulties. They should provide you with an application form in a different format if you request it (for example, in braille, large print or by audio). If they refuse to do this, or you are not happy with the way the council deals with your application, get help from a Shelter Cymru adviser.

What information should I include?

The information you include on your application form helps the council decide:

The application form should allow you to explain in detail any special needs, difficulties or problems you or your family have. For example, if you have mobility problems.

You should also be able to include relevant information about overcrowding, disrepair, medical problems or disability, violence or harassment.

Most application forms will ask for:

  • the name, age and gender of everyone in your household, and how they are related to you
  • your income, and the income of any joint applicants
  • where you currently live, and what facilities and conditions are like there
  • where you have been living (usually over the past 5 years)
  • whether you have any connections with the area, such as living, working or having family in the area
  • the type of housing you need, including size, location and facilities.

Although some of the information may seem private, it is worth including as it may mean that you get extra priority. Enclose copies of any evidence that you have (such as photographs, letters from your doctor or other health professionals, or police incident reports) and take photocopies of everything before you hand it in.

Can I apply jointly with someone else?

It is normally possible for two or more people to apply jointly, for example, if they are a married couple, civil partners, or living together. Applying for a joint tenancy has its pros and cons, so you should get advice before deciding whether to do so. If the council offers you a joint tenancy it would mean that:

  • if you split up, neither of you can be forced to leave without a court order. You would have equal rights to live in the property until the court decides what should happen to your home
  • each of you would be individually responsible for paying the rent and not breaking the tenancy agreement. This means that you could be held liable if the other joint tenant doesn’t pay her/his share of the rent, or causes nuisance to the neighbours.

How will I know about the council’s decision?

If the council decides not to accept your application to go on its waiting list, it must write to you and explain the legal reasons for its decision. If you don’t have an address (for example if you are sleeping on the streets), you can collect the decision letter from the council’s offices.

You should get advice immediately as it may be possible to:

  • ask the council to review their decision (there is a time limit to do this)
  • reapply when your circumstances have changed (for example if you have a history of rent arrears but you have since paid them off).

Can I choose where I live?

The application form may ask you to select which parts of the council’s area you want to live. Choosing more areas gives you a better chance of getting a council or housing association home.

You can apply to any council you choose. You do not have to be living in their area to apply. However, councils are allowed to give extra priority to people who already live in their area.

Some councils run choice based lettings schemes. The council advertises available properties and you can bid for the property if it suits your needs and is in an area you want to live.

Other councils offer properties directly. Take a look at our page on Getting an offer for more details.

Bear in mind that there is usually a longer wait in popular areas.

Keeping your application up to date

In most areas, the council will send you a letter each year, asking if you still want to be considered for housing. If you don’t reply, your name might be removed from the waiting list.

You should also inform the council if your circumstances change, for example if you have a new child or have moved home. Changes in your circumstances may affect how much priority you get.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

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

Who is eligible to apply?

Most people who are living in the UK permanently are eligible to apply for council and housing association accommodation, but there are some exceptions.

Who gets priority?

By law, councils must give some priority for social housing to certain groups of people.

Getting an offer

This page explains how councils and housing associations make offers of accommodation.

Challenging allocation decisions

If you are unhappy about a decision that has been made about your application for council or housing association accommodation, you may be able to take action.

Tenancy Transfers

If you are already a council or housing association tenant, you might be able to apply for a transfer to a different property.

Tenancy Exchanges

If you are already a council or housing association tenant you might be able to swap your home with another tenant.

This page was last updated on: October 25, 2018

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.