Apply for council housing - frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Housing

How many people are already on the housing register?

?This number varies and it depends on how often we write to people and check that they have not moved. In April 2014 there were just over 16,000 people on the housing register.

How many properties do you let each year?

?Approximately 550 one bed properties, 250 two bed properties, 185 three bed properties and 30 four bed properties.

Can I be nominated to a housing Association instead?

?There is no separate nomination process to local housing associations. All the properties we have nomination rights to are advertised in our weekly ChoiceHomes Magazine, including available council homes for letting.

Will I get a secure tenancy with the council?

If you have not been a Council tenant before, you will be given a 12 month introductory tenancy. As long as you pay your rent and do not breach your tenancy conditions, this will be changed into a secure tenancy after a year.

Can I take my pets into a council or housing association property?

Each landlord has slightly different rules but the council will expect you to write to Waltham Forest Housing, who manage the council's housing stock and ask for permission to keep a pet. Permission may be given for you to have one pet. You will have to confirm with the housing association what their rules are.

If I get a council or housing association property, can I buy it?

?Yes, if it is a council property, but the amount of discount is limited. You will not be able to buy a housing association property. Your interest in buying will have no effect on the priority you will receive when you apply on the register.

How many properties can I bid for each week?

?You can bid for two properties each week.

Can I get help with bidding?

?If you are unable to get help from family, friends, or support groups, you can visit the Walthamstow Waltham Forest Direct Shop, or call Waltham Forest Direct on 020 8496 3000. If you have no means of help and are unable to get to a library, or if you have health/disability difficulties, please let us know and we will find a way to help you.

The bidding system is telling me there is an error that is stopping me from bidding. What should I do?

?Please contact the Allocations and Registrations Team on 020 8496 3000, who will investigate and rectify the matter for you.

English is not my first language. How can I bid?

If you can use the Internet, go onto www.ellcchoicehomes.org.uk. The bidding system is translated into 15 community languages including British Sign Language. Otherwise, please get in contact with Waltham Forest Direct 020 8496 3000 and we will do what we can to help you.

What chance have I got of being rehoused through bidding?

The best way to find out is to look at the summary in the Choice Homes magazine of who were the highest priority bidders for the properties advertised in the previous week’s magazine. While these may not be the actual people who finally got made the offer, the successful person will have had very similar priority. This will give an indication of the demand for each type of property and whether you have any chance of being offered that type of property when it is advertised again.

When I bid, I was in position one when the bidding closed. When do I view the property?

At the close of bidding at midnight on Monday, being in position one will mean you have a good chance of getting the property, but it is not an absolute guarantee. There are some circumstances where we will still not make you the offer and will go further down the list of bidders to find the right candidate for the property. Examples of reasons why we might do this include:

We do not by-pass people’s bids any more than we have to, but it is a possibility. We will also need to see documentation to verify the details of your family members' continued occupation at the addresses you have told us about on your application before we finalise the shortlist. Any delay in keeping the appointment we send you to do this may also result in us offering the property to someone else.

  • Council tenants who are in arrears
  • Bids for Housing Association properties where even a small degree of overcrowding might be created
  • Bids for properties that do not match a recommendation made by the Panel that gave you the priority
  • The property has been withdrawn from the bidding by the Council or Housing Association for any reason

How many points can I get and how are they awarded?

The full Allocations Policy documents are available on the website (see links below) and these summarise the points scheme and how we allocate properties.

What priority levels are there?

Additional Preference is the highest band for a limited number of urgent and high priority cases. These include:

A full list of reasons for getting additional preference is available in the policy documents/leaflets above. They are also available from your nearest Council office.

Additional Preference Plus is a higher priority group for people with additional preference on more than one ground. There are very few people in this category, but they do take preference over those with additional preference on one ground only.

Find out more about preference bands

  • Council tenants who are willing to move to something smaller to release a family size property for a bigger family
  • If your case is urgent on medical or social need grounds, (see further questions below - a panel of officers may choose to award you additional preference priority)

I have additional preference, why don’t I get points?

?There is no need. Anyone with additional preference will be considered before those with reasonable preference points. Priority is simply given to those who got additional preference first. Unless you need a wheelchair accessible property, this priority only lasts for 12 months. You can apply to have this extended if you were not successful bidding within 12 months, but if we feel you were being too selective in your bidding, additional preference priority will not be extended.

How can I get high priority?

We need to make sure we have taken into account everything about your case that might attract priority. Higher priority is generally awarded to applicants who have serious health and mobility problems, are being harassed, are in danger of being attacked, or have some degree of learning difficulties. We will make a decision based on the evidence you can provide regarding your situation. ?

What constitutes high social need priority?

?Examples include serious mental health problems, harassment or risk of violence, but there are a wide range of reasons where a family can be under severe pressure in their current home.

What constitutes high health/disability need priority?

Where the current accommodation seriously restricts a person’s independence and is totally unsuitable to meet their health or disability needs. This includes people who may be putting themselves at risk, but also those who are currently managing with great difficulty and by doing so, may cause their condition/situation to deteriorate.?

How do we prioritise application for sheltered housing and extra care?

We take into account housing need and social needs for example, isolation, disability and health needs.

Highest priority goes to applicants who cannot live in their current accommodation due to serious health problems, people awaiting discharge from hospital who cannot return to their homes due to a change in needs and people who are housebound and/or having frequent falls and/or hospital admissions.

Extra care services offer support and care for older people who usually have care packages of 10 hours per week, with a minimum threshold of five hours per week care packages, in exceptional circumstances.

What other high priority groups do you allocate to?

Some high priority groups include:

  • Some homeless families
  • Single homeless people nominated from specific hostel providers
  • Young people leaving local authority care
  • A small number of foster families
  • Some staff retiring from tied accommodation
  • Some people whose homes are required for demolition or refurbishment schemes
  • People in Council or Housing Association properties moving to a smaller home or giving up an adapted property

What is the Reasonable Preference Band?

This is where the majority of people on the Housing Register are prioritised to. People with additional preference take priority over people with reasonable preference.

Reasonable Preference includes everyone who has a recognised level of need outside the additional preference band. Your chances of an offer will depend on how many points you have, on what properties you place your bids and how large a property you need (there is far less chance of a larger property than a smaller one).

Points are awarded for every element of need and they are all added up. The person who has the highest number of points stands the best chance. If two people have the same number of points, priority goes to the person who has had this level of points longest. If two people have had their priority for the same length of time, priority goes to the person who has been on the register longest. There is no maximum number of points. There can still be a considerable waiting time running into years. Many families will never achieve the level of priority to get an offer.

What is the No Preference Band?

?This includes people who would like to move but are considered by the Council to be adequately housed. This will include people who would like to move to a cheaper property owned by the Council or a Housing Association because private sector rents are higher. There is no realistic prospect of anyone in this band ever being made an offer.

What are the Council's Panels that award additional preference or points?

?There are several panels of officers from different disciplines including Housing, Social Services and the Health Authority, who decide, on evidence presented, whether people should get extra points or priority added to their application. This can result in additional preference or extra points in the reasonable preference band, dependent on need.

Who are the members of the Social Need Panel?

The Social Need Panel consists of the Head of Housing Demand, a Principal Officer from Social Services and Mental Health and Housing Link Worker (or representative) from the North East London Mental Health Trust. ?

Who are the members of the Disability and Health Panel?

?The Disability and Health Panel consists of the Housing Register and Options Team Leader, a Senior Occupational Therapist in Housing and the Housing Disability Officer.

Who are the members of the Sheltered Housing Panel?

This panel includes the Unit Head - Supporting People, Sheltered Housing and Disability Services Manager, Senior Occupational Therapist in Housing , Senior Social Work Practitioner and Service provider representative.?

How long do the Panels take to make a decision??

All panels deal with a high volume of applications and some weeks far more than others. The Disability Panel meets weekly; Social Need Panel meets fortnightly and Sheltered Housing Panel meets monthly. Cases do not always get seen at the next panel after you submit your application and it may have to wait until the following one.

You should avoid chasing to find out your decision, as we will update your application or write and let you know the decision as soon as we can. We may have had to write to someone for more information to fully assess your situation.

We can understand your anxiety and need to know if you have been awarded higher priority. If you do need to make enquiries, please leave the following amounts of time before phoning Waltham Forest Direct on 020 8496 3000.

  • Disability Panel: 3 weeks
  • Social Need Panel: 5 weeks
  • Sheltered Housing Panel: 2 months

Can I be sent a housing application form, disability questionnaire and/or sheltered housing form?

These forms are now only available to be completed online. If you are unable to complete the form yourself and there is no one available to help you, you can visit the Walthamstow WFD shop and they will help you complete the form.

If you are unable to visit the shop and have no other means of help please call Waltham Forest Direct on 020 8496 3000 and we will do what we can to help with your application.

I think I'm going to be made homeless by my landlord/ partner. What do I do?

?You need to make contact with our Housing Advice Unit as soon as possible, to discuss your options. We might be able to help you stay in your home or give you appropriate advice or assistance, please call us on 020 8496 3000.

Can I apply to other Councils as well?

?You can apply to other Councils, but many Councils will only accept applications from people who live in their area. You will have to check the policies of each Council if you want to apply elsewhere.

Will the online form take long to complete?

?If you have a large family and have complex needs and health or disability difficulties, it may take over an hour to complete the form. You will need a lot of relevant documents/supporting information and details of dates for where you have lived recently, before you start the form.

What other documents/details will I need to have with me to fully complete the housing application form?

  • Full names and dates of birth for all household members
  • National Insurance numbers for all household members over 16
  • Details of immigration status for all household members
  • Full address history for the last 5 years for sole or joint applicants, including date moved in, date left and full post code for each address
  • Details of anyone who requires support from, or gives support to the household
  • Details of significant health or disability issues of any household member and/or relevant disability benefits
  • Details of any support worker and/or someone you might wish to deal with your application on your behalf
  • Details of whether any household member is related to a Council employee or Waltham Forest councillor
  • Details of any action taken against any household member due to anti-social behaviour or eviction for rent arrears

Will I ever need to show the Council documents to prove that I live where I say I do??

Yes, you will be required to provide evidence of the information you have given in your housing application. You will need to bring a UK driving licence if you have one, passport and/or current Home Office immigration documents and tenancy agreement if you have a landlord. All these, and the other documents listed below will need to be originals and not copies.

You must also bring in a minimum of 3 items of documentary evidence for every member of the household for each of the last three years. As well as Child Benefit books, you will need to bring documents to prove the residence for each adult on your application including the following types of documents:

  • Bank / building society / credit card statements or correspondence
  • Benefit books / statements
  • Letters from the Benefits Agency or Housing Benefits / Pensions Department
  • Utility bills (gas, water, electricity, phone)
  • Council Tax demands / notifications
  • Mobile phone bills / registration documents
  • P60
  • Contract of employment that contains your address
  • Car insurance documents
  • Rent book

Can I get a quick idea of the chances of a property?

?We have a short self assessment form that you have to complete first (before you complete the main housing application form) that will give you an idea of your prospects. Remember that the majority of people who go on our register either never get rehoused, or wait many years before they do. Choice Homes magazine not only advertises vacant properties but shows what level of priority the highest priority bidder had for properties advertised the previous week. Look at this each week and you will get a good idea what to bid for to get the best chance of an offer but more importantly, whether you stand any realistic chance of ever getting an offer. Less than one in ten advertised properties go to people outside the additional preference band and that level of priority is difficult to achieve.

I am already registered and want to tell you about some changes

You will be able to access your online housing application using the reference number you received when you completed your application, and your date of birth. Visit our online Change of Circumstances form.

You will be able to change your details, including adding new family members and filling out a disability/health questionnaire. Your original application date will not change but, dependent on what you tell us, the details you give us may affect your priority. If you originally completed a paper application form, you will still be able to access your information by logging in online with your registration reference number. ?

Can I include children on my application if they live with an ex-partner?

We will only offer housing for children who live with you permanently. Where parents have joint custody, we will look at where the children live during the week and from where they go to school to see where their main residence is. With such a shortage of family size homes, we cannot provide bedrooms for children with both of their parents.