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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Finding a place to live – your council and housing association options

Find out what housing options are available from your council or local housing association and the types of tenancy agreements in use. You can also find out where to get help if you need emergency housing and what to do if you’re thinking of moving somewhere more suitable to your needs.

Councils and housing associations – the basics

Housing associations are separate from councils, but often work closely with them, to house local people. You can often apply directly to a housing association as well as your council and you can apply to more than one housing association.

In some areas:

  • you may only deal with a housing association as they run the council’s housing list
  • council and housing associations work together to house local people – their shared housing list is known as a ‘common housing register’

Housing options

If you’re looking for a place to live, you could:

  • apply for a council house
  • apply to rent a housing association property
  • join an affordable home ownership scheme – these can help you own (or part-own) certain types of property
  • rent privately

If you’re an existing council or housing association tenant

If you live in a property that's too small/large for you, contact your council or housing association about being re-housed (moved). If the property is too large, you’re likely to be offered a different property fairly quickly. This is so your current property can be made available to, for example, a family who need it.

Existing tenants may also be able to buy their home or swap it with another council or housing association tenant. Swapping with another tenant is sometimes known as ‘exchanging’.

Emergency housing – if you urgently need a place to stay

First night on the streets?

Make it your last. Get contact details of every homeless outreach team in England

If you’re homeless, have nowhere to stay or need to move (for example, because of domestic violence), contact your council immediately. You can also get advice from organisations like Shelter.

The rules on what help your council can give you (for example, arranging accommodation for you or giving you advice) are complicated. You can use Shelter’s emergency housing rights checker to find out what you’re entitled to.

Supported housing or care homes

If you’re finding it difficult to cope in your home you might want to think about:

  • moving to sheltered housing or a care home
  • making adaptations to your home so you can stay in it

Supported or sheltered housing enables people to live independently but with extra daily support. Care homes offer a level of support that can’t be provided in your own home. Some offer full-time nursing care while others support people with a specific disability or medical need.

Eviction – if you face losing your home  

If you break any of the conditions of your tenancy agreement, your landlord may take action to evict you.

Your council or housing association needs permission from a court to evict you and there are certain legal steps they have to follow. To find out more about these legal steps, if you can stop or delay the eviction and what your rights are, see the links below.

Where to get housing advice

Contact your council or housing association for information about housing options in your area. You can also get housing advice from Citizens Advice or a housing charity like Shelter.

Tenancy agreements

If you move into a council or housing association property, you’ll have to sign a legal contract known as a ‘tenancy agreement’. This tells you about your rights and responsibilities. For example: 

  • how much rent you have to pay and when it’s due
  • if you can sub-let the property or rent out rooms
  • what repairs you or the landlord are responsible for
  • when and how you can be evicted

Your rights will depend on the type of tenancy you have. The different types of council and housing association tenancies are shown below.

Types of council tenancies

Introductory tenancies – if you’re a new council tenant

These normally last 12 months and are like a ‘trial’ tenancy to prove that you’re a responsible tenant before the council offers you a secure tenancy.

Secure council tenancies

If you’ve lived in your council property for at least a year you’re likely to be a secure tenant. Secure tenants have strong rights and can only be evicted in certain situations. However, your tenancy can be ‘demoted’ if you’ve been involved in anti-social behaviour. This means you have fewer rights and less protection against eviction.

Joint tenancy agreements – council housing

Your tenancy can be shared with someone else (known as a joint tenancy). Joint tenants have equal rights and responsibilities. For example, both of you are responsible for paying the rent on time.

Types of housing association tenancies

Starter tenancies – if you’re a new housing association tenant

These normally last 12 months and are like a ‘trial’ tenancy to prove that you’re a responsible tenant before you're offered an assured tenancy.

Assured tenancies

If you’re an assured tenant you have strong rights and can only be evicted in certain situations. However, your tenancy can be ‘demoted’ if you’ve been involved in anti-social behaviour. This means you have fewer rights and less protection against eviction.

Assured shorthold tenancies

Assured shorthold tenancies are usually for a set period of time (called a ‘fixed term’). The housing association may use this type of tenancy so it is easier to get the property back once the tenancy has ended.

Secure housing association tenancies

If you have been renting your home since before 1989 you’re likely to have a secure tenancy rather than an assured tenancy.

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