Everything You Need to Know About Renting a Council Home in London
While London may be famed for its high private rental prices and expensive properties to purchase, there are options available for those who want to rent a flat or a house from the local authority. If you want to get a council home in London, you can apply for a property through your local council. This type of property is often referred to as ‘social housing’.
Since social housing is in demand, your application will be assessed before being either accepted or denied. If your application is accepted, you will go onto a waiting list of people who are in need of social housing. Applications are prioritised based on who is in need of a home most urgently, with families with children typically being a top priority. Bear in mind that even if you get on the waiting list, there is no guarantee that you will be given a council home. You may need to consider applying directly to housing associations rather than going through the council. Your local council can put you in touch with housing associations in the area. In addition, bear in mind that if your council has a long waiting list, you may be asked if you would like to apply for homes in other areas too. Being on several waiting lists for homes in different areas at the same time may increase your chance of getting a council home.
What is a Council Flat in London?
Council flats and homes in London are social housing provided by local councils. They are typically more affordable than privately rented homes and are usually offered to people who would otherwise struggle to find somewhere to live.
There are various criteria that you may have to meet in order to apply for a council home, depending on your local council and its rules. Different councils tend to have various guidelines on who is able to apply for a council home and who is given priority. You will likely need to:
- Be on a low income and have little to no savings
- Have lived in the area for a number of years, have family locally, or work in the area
Bear in mind that not all councils will require that you have a local connection in order to be eligible for a council flat or house. It is worth checking on the council’s website to see if you are able to apply. Some councils will accept the fact that you have lived in an area before as a connection to the local area, even if you do not currently work or have family living in the area.
You are more likely to be given a council house or flat if you are awarded priority by the council. Different councils have different guidelines regarding who takes priority when it comes to getting a council home. You could get priority if you are:
- Legally homeless or if the council has a duty to provide you with accommodation if you are homeless, for example, if you are a vulnerable person or a family with children.
- If you are moving due to a disability or a serious long-term health problem.
- If you are moving to a different area due to hardship, which could be because you are in danger, to take a new job, or to get medical treatment.
- If you are currently living in a home that is in poor condition or overcrowded.
However, bear in mind that even if you are given priority by your local council, it is likely to take a long time for you to be offered a home. If you are in an area that has a long waiting list, you may not be offered a home at all. Bear in mind that in some cases, it might be best to stay where you are if this is possible or look for a home yourself through a private landlord in London. You may be eligible to get help with paying your rent if you are struggling with money.
If you believe that you have not been given enough priority based on your circumstances when applying for a council home, you can ask the council to review their decision.
Applying for a Council Home in London:
You will likely need to apply online. You can check which council you need to apply to at the Gov.UK website. If you are applying to a housing association, bear in mind that the rules may differ. You can check the housing association’s specific process on their website. When filling in the application, give as much detail as you can. You may be asked to provide the council with additional evidence to support your application, such as a doctor’s note if you are moving as a result of a health condition.
Once you have sent your application, your council will use the information provided to decide whether or not you are eligible to be put on the waiting list. Once this decision is made, they will then look at the information you’ve provided again to decide if you should be given priority and the size of home that you are eligible for. You may be asked to provide details of your income from your job or any benefits you receive, your job history, any disabilities or long-term health conditions that you have, details of your savings and any assets that you own such as a car, where you have lived for the past few years and why you left the area, and any relevant immigration documents if you are not originally from the UK.
If your situation changes after making your application for a council home, bear in mind that this might change your position on the waiting list, so it is best to tell your council as soon as possible. However, consider that while this could mean that you may be given a home more quickly, you may also be moved further down the list depending on the change of situation. If you fail to inform the council of any changes that affect your level of priority you may be accused of being untruthful on your application, putting you at risk of being evicted from any home that you are given. Some situational changes that you should inform the council about include if your medical needs change or you develop a new medical condition, if you have a change in income, if you move house or change your contact details, or if you become pregnant or have another child. You should also tell the council if you are being harassed where you currently live or are in any new danger in your current home.
Bidding for a Council Home in London:
Your local London council may provide an online system where you can search for a home. If you find a property that you like and is suitable for you, you can apply for it online to let the council know that you are interested in it in a process known as bidding. Homes are given a closing date, so it’s important to find out when this is and make sure that you bid before then. Bear in mind that bidding for a home does not automatically mean that you can get it as the priority system will still apply. If you are offered a council home, you may be able to refuse it if you do not think that it is suitable for your needs, but it’s important to check with the council before you do this as you may be removed from the waiting list by some councils.
How Much is Council Flat Rent in London?
Council house and flat rental prices in London will depend on a number of factors including the local council that provides the home, the area where the property is located, and the size of the property. Council houses and flats in London start from £625 per month for a one-bedroom property.
How to Buy a Council Flat in London
If you are a current council tenant, the Right to Buy scheme allows the majority of council tenants in London to buy the flat or house that they live in at a discounted price. The Right to Buy website includes an eligibility checker tool that you can use to find out if you can apply to purchase your council flat or house. There are several criteria that you must meet in order for you to be able to apply to buy your council home. You will need to have been renting from a public sector landlord such as the council or a housing association for at least three years. The council home that you want to buy should be self-contained and it should be your only or main home. You will need to be a secure tenant, meaning that you can live in the property for the rest of your life providing that you do not break the conditions of the tenancy. You can make a joint application to purchase your council home with somebody who shares your tenancy or up to three family members who have lived with you over the past year.
Applying to the local council in London is the best way to be in with a chance of getting a council property if you are in need of somewhere to live. Check out the council website for the borough in London where you are looking to get a council home.