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 council or housing association property.

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

Each council has its own allocations policy.

A council’s allocations 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 whether you are likely be offered a home and, if so, approximately how long it is likely to take. The council 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 and housing association usually allocate their properties through either:

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

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

In some areas, you can apply directly to local housing associations and ask to go on their waiting lists. Ask your council for details of any housing associations operating separate waiting lists in your 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 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 taking away some of your priority points) if you turn down several offers, or don’t make any bids at all.

Many councils will give people with the most urgent need for rehousing a ‘priority card’. This will give you an advantage over anyone who bids for a particular property and doesn’t have one. Priority cards usually only last for a certain period of time (eg. 12 weeks) but this can be extended. If you’re worried that your priority card may be taken away because you don’t bid for any of the properties that are advertised, get advice.

How many offers will I get?

Councils and housing associations do not have to make you more than one offer of housing. When you make your application, ask how many offers you will get – most 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 advice and ask what their policy on refusals is before you decide.

What if the council offers me somewhere unsuitable?

Any housing the council offers you should be suitable for you and your household, as defined in their allocation scheme. The council should take a number of things into account when it decides what 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.

The council should look at all of these issues, and should consider the effect that moving to the accommodation would have on the health and welfare of your whole household. They should only offer you accommodation that they believe is suitable for you.

If you don’t believe the offer is suitable, you can ask the council to review its 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, call Shelter Cymru’s helpline for some urgent advice first. Act quickly as there are time limits which apply.

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.

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

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.