Most council and housing association homes are now let through local choice-based lettings (CBL) schemes rather than through housing registers or waiting lists. This allows you to make choices about where you want to live and the type of home that is most suitable for you.
The rules and way CBL schemes run can vary, so always check the details with the individual scheme when you register.
If you are looking for a council or housing association home, you should contact your local council (usually the Housing Options or Housing Teams). They will decide if you are eligible for social housing and give you a priority banding based on your current housing circumstances.
For example, if you are homeless, living in overcrowded or unsafe conditions or have a medical need, you will generally be placed in a higher band than if you just wanted to move closer to family.
The housing team will also give you a user name and password to log in to the website of the local CBL scheme.
Details of any council or housing association homes available for rent in the area will be advertised on that site. (Some councils also publish listings in leaflets and newsletters, available from local libraries and housing offices.)
It is up to you to check these advertisements regularly to look for homes that meet your needs. The listings usually change weekly.
When you find a suitable home, you can make a 'bid' or 'express interest' through the website, or sometimes by phone or text. Properties are generally only on the site for a week and there are strict deadlines for bids. You can usually place bids on more than one property at a time.
When the advertisement closes, the bids received are sorted and checked. Each property is usually offered to the bidder with the highest priority, based on their banding and the length of time they have been registered with the scheme. If they turn it down, it is offered to the next person on the list.
If your bid is successful, the landlord of the property will contact you to set up an interview. If that goes well, they will offer you the property and arrange for you to view it.
If you decide the property is unsuitable, you do not have to accept it. But some schemes may lower your priority banding if you turn down several offers or don't make any bids at all.
If you want to move outside your area, you may be able to register with the local CBL scheme where you want to live. Some schemes will only accept you if you have a local connection, such as family or work in their area.
You can be registered with more than one CBL scheme at the same time.