Applying for accessible council and housing association homes

This information applies to England and Wales.

Go to your local authority website or contact your local housing service to find out how to apply for social housing in your area. The process can vary in different areas. But you usually apply online to your local authority or council housing service.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Apply for council housing (GOV.UK)

If you cannot apply online, contact the council for an application form. Shelter has a postcode search to help you find your local housing office.

How to apply for council housing (Shelter)

Councils and housing associations must make the application process accessible to you. Ask for reasonable adjustments like Word documents or Easy Read.

Asking for reasonable adjustments

Get help applying

If you find the application process complicated or difficult, a charity, occupational therapist (OT) or social care worker can help you apply. They can also refer you to your local housing department.

Charities may also be able to give you housing advice or refer you to a housing adviser.

Shelter housing advisers

Check the local allocations scheme or policy

Local councils and housing associations will have different applications and rules. For example, some might ask for references from a previous landlord. Read your local council or housing association allocations policy or scheme. It should tell you:

  • how the process works in your area
  • how they decide priority

Councils and housing associations usually organise priority using a points or group system, sometimes called ‘bands’. Each council or housing association will have their own band system. Priority will be based on your needs, such as if you’re:

  • legally homeless
  • moving because of disability or a serious, long-term health condition
  • moving to a different area because of hardship, such as getting medical treatment or because you’re in danger

Knowing how they allocate priority bands can help you include the right information in your application. Speak to a housing adviser or occupational therapist (OT) if you need support.

If you disagree with your priority band, you can challenge it.

Challenging the council’s decision about your housing application (Citizens Advice)

Filling in the application form

Local authorities or councils usually have an application form you can download or fill in online. Filling in the form with someone who knows you well can help. This could be a family member, friend, OT or social care worker who understands your needs.

Each local area will have its own process but the information you need to include will be similar. For example:

  • who lives with you
  • how many rooms you need
  • adaptations you need
  • if you need an adapted home, like a wheelchair accessible flat
  • your income, including benefits
  • your savings and any assets, like a car

If you need adaptations or an adapted property, some councils and housing associations might ask for a OT needs assessment as part of your application. You can ask your local authority for this.

Home adaptations and occupational therapist assessments

You might need to give medical information or evidence. This could be letters or reports from healthcare professionals, like your GP, OT, hospital doctors or specialists. Some local areas might have a ‘medical assessment’ form to fill.

Check your local allocations policy to find out what medical information or assessments you need.

Waiting lists

If the local authority approves your application, you will join a waiting list. Local authority waiting lists can include:

  • council housing
  • housing association homes
  • housing associations only providing accessible housing

If you think you do not have the right priority, ask the council to review it. Make sure you check the priority criteria in the allocations scheme before asking for a review.

Council housing (GOV.UK)

Getting a council home (Citizens Advice)

How long does it take to get a council home? (Shelter)

Housing association waiting lists

Some local housing associations will let you apply directly. But it can help to speak to your local council housing office first. They can tell you about the process for your area and if there are housing associations with their own lists. It can help to register for these independent lists as well as the council list.

Housing association homes (GOV.UK)

Housing associations for adapted properties

Some housing associations offer adapted properties only, for example Habinteg. If there is a waiting list for your area, you can usually apply on the housing association website. They can also list their adapted homes with the council and may recommend you join the council list too.

Waiting for a property

Your priority on the waiting list is based on your needs. How long you’ll wait for a home will depend on:

  • how many properties are available
  • how high your priority is
  • how many people are before you on the waiting list
  • if you need an adapted property and how many are available

You can ask the housing association or council how long they think you’ll have to wait. This estimate is not based on your personal situation but can help you make a decision about your current housing.

Warning Waiting lists can be long

You may have to wait a long time, possibly years, for a suitable property to become available, even if you are high priority.

Direct offers and bidding for properties

Check the allocations scheme to find out how your council assigns properties. This will vary between councils and could be one of the following systems:

  • you have to ‘bid’ for homes (choice-based lettings)
  • you’re offered a suitable home when it becomes available (direct offers)
  • the council uses both choice-based lettings and direct offers

Choice-based lettings (CBL)

You look for properties you’re eligible for and apply. This is usually called ‘bidding’. People with the highest priority will get an offer first. With choice-based lettings, you need to find and bid on properties.

If your council only uses choice-based lettings, you will not get offers without bidding, even if you are high priority.

You can bid online, by phone or by text. If the system is not accessible to you, the local council must give you another way to bid. For example, a proxy bid system where the housing association or council bids for you.

Ask your council or housing association for more information.

Direct offers

The council or housing association will offer you a suitable property when it becomes available. They might do this by phone and then follow it up with a letter.

If your council uses both direct offers and choice-based lettings, you might also need to bid for properties you’re eligible for.

Getting offered a property

Check your local council or housing association policy on offers. Some will only offer 1 suitable property.

If you only get 1 offer, accept the property even if you feel it is not completely suitable. Once you’ve accepted, you can ask for adaptations or a council review of the suitability.

Challenge a council housing register decision (Shelter)

Some councils or housing associations may give you a chance to explain why you feel a property is not suitable. Do this in writing and include evidence from professionals supporting you, like an OT or a social care worker.

Help with discrimination in housing (Equality and Human Rights Commission)

You could also check if you can get legal aid or free legal advice about your rights and what you can do next.

Finding legal help (Citizens Advice)

Asking for adaptations

If you need minor adaptations, first accept the property and ask for them. Local councils and housing associations will usually pay for small adaptations that cost under £1,000. You can try working with them to make the adaptations before you move in.

Or you can wait until after you have signed the tenancy agreement. Once you are a tenant, your social landlord must make reasonable adjustments. You can ask for an OT needs assessment if you do not already have one.

What is considered reasonable will depend on cost and the type of adaptation. Social housing landlords should have a budget for reasonable adjustments and minor adaptations.

Getting home adaptations

Major adaptations

If you need major adaptations, your council and housing association do not have to make these by law. They may want you to move into an adapted property instead.

You can still apply for major adaptations. Approval will depend on:

  • the type of property, for example, if it’s a listed building
  • adaptation cost
  • type of adaptation
  • the council or housing association’s policy

You can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to help with the cost of large adaptations. DFG is means-tested (based on income) so check if you’re eligible.

Disability grants for home adaptations

Temporary housing during home adaptations

Advocacy and getting advice and support

Getting support locally can be helpful. Contact your local authority about their advocacy services. They should be able to help you understand your local council’s housing process and systems.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

You could also try contacting a local:

They will have knowledge about how things work in your area and can give you advice.

If you cannot find any organisations in your area, try contacting a national service. They should be able to help or give you contact details of a local organisation. You could contact:

Last reviewed by Scope on: 13/11/2023

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