Can I get council housing if I’m ill and a student?

I have a chronic illness called lupus, amongst other things it means I'm constantly tired and on medication. I'm currently living in student accommodation but my housemates don't seem to understand that I need to live in a clean environment so I don't get ill. The whole situation has affected my relationships and studies so I've decided to move out of student accommodation next year. I'd like to be able to get a council house because when my illness is active, I'm not sure I'll be able to pay rent and there's no room for me back at home . Am I likely to be able to get a council house, considering I'm so ill?

You can apply to go on the council’s waiting list, however, the demand for housing from the council is often very high so you could be waiting along time. But council waiting lists don’t work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and there are certain groups of people who must always be given priority.

Your chances of getting a place, and how long you’ll have to wait, will probably depend on:

  • how much council or housing association housing there is in your area;
  • how much priority you’ve been awarded;
  • how many other applicants have more priority than you.

Most councils use a points system or a banding system and will give extra priority to people who have lived in their area for a certain length of time. You may get reasonable preference if you:

  • have health problems that are made worse by where you live
  • have mobility problems that make it difficult to get around your home
  • suffer from a mental illness or depression made worse by your accommodation

If you include your medical reasons in your application, you should give as much information as possible, including how your medical problems are affected by where you are living. Explain the difficulties the medical condition causes in as much detail as you can. The council will normally ask a doctor, health visitor or other expert to assess your medical problems and may use an independent person who doesn’t know you. They may also contact your local doctor (GP) and you should include details of any other health worker or social worker that can support your application.

If you are going to become homeless, or believe it is not reasonable for you to continue living where you are you could make a homeless application to the council. This is different to making an application to go on the council waiting list.

You can ask your local council’s housing department for help if you are homeless or likely to become homeless. It has to give you advice and help you to find a place to live. In some cases, it may have to arrange accommodation for you. But the council will need to look into your circumstances to establish what sort of help you’re entitled to. In your case you may have accommodation, but it is not reasonable for you to live there due to the impact on your health, and you may be given priority because of your illness.

But if you leave accommodation the council considered reasonable for you to live in, they may decide you are intentionally homeless. If they do decide this, then it might not have a duty to house you.

Whatever accommodation you find, you are going to be responsible for paying the rent, and therefore need to have an income so you can pay it. Usually students can’t claim housing benefit for financial assistance with rent, but in some circumstances they can, for example, if they’re:

  • on a part-time course;
  • disabled;
  • responsible for children;
  • under 19 and on a non-higher education course (such as A-levels);
  • getting income support or income-based jobseekers allowance;
  • an older person, receiving a state pension;
  • forced to leave their course temporarily because of illness or caring responsibilities

If you can’t get onto the council waiting list, or your homeless application is turned down you can consider other housing options, such as renting privately. And you can get further advice, help and information from a local advice service or your university’s student accommodation services. We also have information about student money which may help you pay your rent.

Next Steps

  • Shelter's advice website for young people offers help with housing problems and a free helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/ instead.
  • Youreable is an online community forum for disabled people.
  • Moving out for the first time? Get the real Home Truths.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.