Your local council is free to set its own housing allocation policy as long as they follow certain rules. By law your council must set out policies, procedures and priorities by which social housing, including council and housing association housing, will be allocated. It must also must make sure that information regarding those policies is made available to the public.

Decisions relating to how the council considers your case on the housing register can in certain instances be open to judicial review. Below is a very brief explanation of how the housing register and allocations work, how they can be challenged by review, and when judicial review action in the High Court may be appropriate.

Your local council must also give the following groups ‘reasonable preference’ when it comes to social housing:

  • people who are legally classed as homeless (or threatened with homelessness) – under the law, a person is homeless when they have no home that is available and reasonable to occupy
  • people living in unsanitary, overcrowded or otherwise unsatisfactory housing
  • people who need to move for medical or welfare reasons
  • people who need to move to a particular location (for example, to be nearer to special medical facilities) and who would suffer hardship if they were unable to do so

How does your local council operate their housing register and housing allocation scheme?

Your council will operate either a points-based or band-based system for the allocation of social housing. In allocating points or a band,  it should take into account issues including as how long a person has been on the waiting list for social housing and their level of housing need. Unfortunately many applicants find they are not allocated the correct banding or points.

It is possible to challenge a decision on your housing register or waiting-list application – if, for example, your application to join the register is refused or your banding or priority is not what it should be.

We suggest that you put your request in writing even if you make fuller representations at a later date. You should also request a copy of your housing file and your council’s allocation policy.

If you’re not allowed on the housing register

Councils must allow homeless people and people with health, disability or welfare needs on the register.

Ask the council to review its decision if it says that you do not qualify under the council’s local policy.

Local connection

Local connection rules are set out in your council’s allocation policy – check it, and, if you’re not happy, request a review of it.

Check the rules and give the council any missing or overlooked evidence to prove your connection. This could include evidence of you or a family member living or working in the area for the required time, or proof of the amount of time you have lived in the area.

Health, disability and welfare needs

Ask health professionals, support workers or social workers to write support letters if you feel the council didn’t properly consider your health, disability or welfare needs.

If you think you should have more priority

You can challenge your council’s decision if you feel the council hasn’t given you enough priority on the waiting list because it has:

  • wrongly assessed your health and welfare needs
  • not included everyone in your household
  • unfairly penalised you for rent arrears or antisocial behaviour
  • made a mistake about your local connection to the area

These factors can affect your banding or points allocation. It is important that you are allocated the check this to ensure the correct banding and the size or property type you can be considered for.

Homeless and in temporary accommodation

You can ask for a suitability review of any offer from the housing register if you’re homeless and housed in temporary accommodation.

Review findings and Judicial Review

When your council writes to tell you the outcome of its review, and you disagree with the decision, this is where we may be able to help. Your next challenge may be by way of judicial review. A court can look at the lawfulness of the decision and whether your council is in fact operating a lawful allocations policy.

Judicial review is a legal action that challenges council decisions. It is a complex process and you will need legal help. You can read about judicial review here.