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CIH Scotland

New Arrivals


Obtaining a rented home through the local council

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Those who can apply to go on the council housing list or allocation scheme include people who:

  • are homeless (even if the council has no duty to help them)
  • in temporary accommodation
  • in overcrowded or unhealthy conditions
  • need to move for work or family reasons
  • need different accommodation because of age, illness or disability
  • want more secure or cheaper housing
  • are existing council or housing association tenants who want to move.

Local councils in Scotland set their own policies for running their housing lists, with guidance from the Scottish Government.  These policies cannot discriminate directly or indirectly against particular nationalities or ethnic groups (for more on this see the page on what is discrimination?) These policies do not affect homelessness assistance which is established under Scottish law.

If you are eligible you can go on to the list and include in your application anyone who can reasonably be included as part of your family or household, whether they are eligible or not. Their circumstances (such as overcrowding or medical needs) will also count towards the priority you get.

Every housing authority has to have a scheme under which they allocate housing to housing applicants. Most authorities give some priority to people who have a local connection with the area. Only eligible people can be offered accommodation, and eligibility is determined by immigration status and habitual residence.

Local authorities then have to prioritise the applications for any housing where demand exceeds supply. They must give priority to those living in poor conditions, people in social or medical need and those who are homeless. New long-term local authority tenancies and nominations to housing associations can only be granted to people on the list.

Local councils have different ways of allocating property but most use a choice-based lettings system. You apply, go on the list and are given points for the level of need that you have. Any available homes from the council and housing associations in the area are advertised in local housing offices, on the internet, in the local paper and other places, and you can bid for them if they are the type of home that you want. The home is allocated to the bidder with the highest number of points.

Some councils run their allocations scheme jointly with other local councils so that you can bid for homes from a much wider area.

A few councils still operate a different system. You still go on to a list and get points for your level of housing need (medical, social, housing conditions, homelessness, time waited and so on). When a home becomes vacant, the person with the highest number of points is offered it. If you refuse it, you may lose your place on the list, or be refused further temporary accommodation if homeless.

Sometimes, councils refuse to put eligible applicants on the housing register because they do not understand the law. If this is because of your immigration status, but you are eligible, this is called discrimination. There is information about what you can do about this in the page on challenging discrimination.

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing