Finding somewhere to live

Local authority housing (or council housing) is housing you can live in that is owned by your local authority (council). You have to apply for local authority housing and will be put on a waiting list. The time you wait will depend how much you need a home. Your council will assess your needs and decide if you are high or low priority.

Housing legislation and entitlement

Most people can register to be considered for local authority housing but you will only be entitled to a house from your local authority if you:

  • are eligible for public funds
  • have a connection to the local area
  • are unintentionally homeless
  • are in priority need

Your prospects of getting local authority housing will vary depending on your local authority.

If you have been told that you don't qualify for local authority housing and think you should, you can request a review for the decision to deny you housing within 21 days. This can be done in writing or verbally.

If you are not eligible for housing from your local authority and are struggling to find somewhere to live then have a look at our page on homelessness for advice on where you might go for support in an emergency.

Priority need

Amongst those eligible for local authority housing, vulnerable people are given priority. The kind of things which might increase the priority of an application include:

  • old age, mental illness, learning disability or physical disability, particularly when the current property does not allow the person to live safely and independently
  • having served in the naval, military, or air forces
  • having been in detention or custody
  • having had to leave a previous home due to abuse, violence or threats
  • being aged 16 or 17
  • being 18-20 years old after being in care
  • situations where young children will be at risk
  • situations where a pregnant mother will otherwise be left homeless

Find out how applications are prioritised in Sutton.

Read the full housing allocation policy.

Waiting times

The waiting time will depend on the size of the property you need and where you want to live. The housing waiting list has a limited number of properties available each year and how quickly you go up the list depends on many things, one of which is how flexible you are in the type of housing you would consider moving into and the location of that property.

If you are considered to have a priority need you may be offered short-term temporary housing until a suitable long-term property becomes available. Temporary housing may include being offered a place in bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation, or housing outside of your council's area.

Tenancy types

There are a number of different tenancies available to you in local authority housing. If this is your first local authority home, you will be offered an introductory tenancy which usually lasts 12 months. Under this tenancy you cannot make changes to the home, swap your home with another local authority home or apply for the right to buy scheme.

Once you have lived in a local authority house for over a year, you may be offered a 'secure', 'flexible' or 'joint' Tenancy. Under these tenancies you can rent out rooms, buy your property through the Right to Buy scheme, swap your home with another local authority housing tenant and transfer your tenancy to someone else in certain circumstances. Only under a secure tenancy can you make changes to your home.

Paying for local authority housing

If you live in local authority housing you will be a tenant who pays rent to the local council. Depending on your situation you may be eligible to claim housing benefit to pay towards your rent.

Swapping your local authority home

If you want to move within your current area then you will need to speak to your local authority's housing department. In Sutton you can do this with Sutton Housing Partnership.

Housing Moves is the Mayor of London's housing mobility scheme that allows tenants of London boroughs or housing associations to move outside their existing borough to a different part of London. It is run by the Greater London Authority and the majority of London boroughs and housing associations participate.

If you want move to another area, HomeSwapper may be able to assist you to find someone in that area who wants to swap with you.

The Seaside and Country Homes scheme is run by central government and provides bungalows and flats for council or housing association tenants over the age of 60 who want to move out of the city to a seaside or country location.

Applying for local authority housing

In Sutton, council housing is managed by Sutton HomeChoice. To use this service you start by submitting a new household registration online.

Once registered you can apply for Housing Options Online, to access a personal action plan which includes the next steps you can take to resolve your housing situation. This service enables you to find housing options personalised to your own circumstances without having to discuss your situation with an advisor. Once you enter your details you will be able to view and follow your personalised action plan.

Other information and advice information on applying for local authority housing. Shelter provides detailed information on your rights to local authority housing. Homeless link provides a searchable directory to help you to find your local council's housing department.