Councils must ensure priority for social housing goes to those in the greatest need. Some councils do this by using a points system. Points are awarded according to the circumstances and level of housing need.
What are points?
The law states that in allocating housing 'reasonable preference' must be given to certain categories of persons. These categories are:
- people who are homeless
- people living in insanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory housing
- people who need to move on medical or welfare grounds
- people who need to move to a particular locality in the district of the authority, where failure to meet that need would cause hardship to themselves or to others
In addition, councils may give additional preference to people in the above categories who are considered to have more urgent housing needs. A points system must take these factors into account.
What other factors are taken into account?
Other factors which a points system may take into account could include:
- residency - do you live in the area where you are applying for housing?
- financial circumstances - are you on benefits or in paid employment
- tenancy record - for example, have you a good record or have you accrued rent arrears?
- time on register - you may gain extra points if you have been on the housing register for sometime
You can request a leaflet from your council that details how it allocates its housing points.
The points system is based on your present circumstances. If your requirements change, if you are expecting a child for example, you must contact your council as soon as possible. You will need to fill in a new application form as you may be reassessed.
You have important rights as a secure council tenant.
You also have important responsibilities.
This is a summary of housing law, and may not cover all circumstances. It should also be considered as a guide and not completely definitive in itself.
We'll give you the overview but after that and if you want to know more or confirm things, your council’s housing department will be able to help you. Your council may have produced its own leaflet or newsletter to let you know what is going on in your area. There are also many government leaflets about council housing. You will find details of some of these, and a list of addresses of organisations that may be able to help you, at the end of this article.
Your council may operate what is known as an Introductory Tenancy Scheme. This scheme would apply to all new tenants and last for twelve months, after which the tenancy would become secure. Your Council can ask the courts to extend your introductory tenancy for a further six months if you behave antisocially.
All introductory tenants must abide by the terms of their tenancy agreement, or risk losing their home without the council having to go to court to prove that the agreement has been breached. As an introductory tenant your rights are very similar to those of a secure tenant. Your council can tell you more.
Your rights as a secure tenant
In general, as long as you keep to the rules of your tenancy agreement, pay your rent and are not involved in anti-social behaviour:
- You can live in your home for the rest of your life as long as you do what your tenancy agreement says.
- You can buy your home at a discount.
- You can pass on your home to someone in your family living with you when you die.
- You can take in lodgers and sub-let part of your home.
- You can get certain urgent repairs done quickly and at no cost to you.
- You can carry out improvements to your home.
- You can be paid for certain improvements you have made if you move home.
- You can help to manage your estate.
- You can exchange your property for another one.
- You must be consulted on housing management matters.
- You must be given information about how your council runs the homes it owns.
Your responsibilities as a secure tenant:
- You must keep to the rules in your tenancy agreement.
- You must pay your rent.
- You must be a good neighbour and not annoy other tenants.
Anti-social behaviour is taken very seriously and may result in the loss of your tenancy.