Frequently asked questions
Who can apply to join the housing register?
We operate an open housing register and anyone over 16 may apply to be included on it, except for:
- Anyone who is subject to immigration control who does not have exceptional leave to remain, settled immigration status or refugee status
- Anyone not habitually resident in the Common Travel Area
- Anyone who no longer has right to reside in the UK
- Anyone who has been deemed guilty of serious unacceptable behaviour (including rent arrears, nuisance or annoyance to other residents)
- Anyone who has unspent convictions for criminal behaviour committed within their home
- Anyone who supplies false or misleading information
For full details please refer to section 5 of the Housing Allocation Policy.
What is housing need?
You are in housing need if your present home is unsuitable for you and your family. For example:
- Your home is too small
- You lack, or have to share facilities like the kitchen or bathroom
- There are structural problems
- Your medical problems are made worse by where you live
How is housing need assessed?
Your application is assessed under the banding scheme below. There are 5 bands which reflect your housing need:
- Band A: Emergency housing need
- Band B: High housing need
- Band C: Medium housing need
- Band D: Low housing need
- Band E: Very low housing need
For full details about the banding system and why your application might be placed in a particular band, see section 6 of the Housing Allocation Policy.
What happens once I have joined the housing register?
Once you have joined the housing register you will receive a letter telling you what band your application has been put in and what king of properties you are eligible for. You will also receive your application number.
You will then need to bid for properties through Ideal Choice Homes, the choice based lettings system for the Lancaster district.
For full details about how Ideal Choice Homes works, click here to visit the web site. You may also want to read the Ideal Choice Homes User Guide.
What happens if I am deemed ineligible to be included on the housing register?
You would be notified of this decision in writing and have the right to request a review of the decision within 21 days. You would also be informed what you need to do to re-apply, and where appropriate given advice about agencies to contact who may be able to assist you with this.
You have the right to make a new application after 12 months, unless a shorter time is considered appropriate.
Choice Based Lettings
What is choice based lettings?
Choice based lettings is the system used to let council accommodation in the Lancaster district (Ideal Choice Homes). It also includes properties from other Registered Providers of social housing (formerly known as Housing Associations)
Rather than being offered the next available property when you reach the top of the housing waiting list, the current vacancies are advertised.
If you see a property advertised that you are interested in, and you are eligible for, you place a ‘bid’ for it (see below). You will then be considered for this property based on your housing need and length of time on the waiting list. In this way, you will only ever be offered a property that you are interested in.
Why is choice based lettings used to let properties?
Choice based lettings is a modern, open and transparent system which allows you to exercise much greater choice and make more informed decisions about your housing situation. You are given all the information you need about available properties to make the decisions that are best for you.
How do I find out what properties are available?
Current vacancies are advertised in a number of locations. The website is the easiest way to see the current property adverts (www.idealchoicehomes.co.uk), but you can also collect a weekly newsletter from the customer service centres at Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls. Vacancies will be advertised from Wednesday morning until midnight on the following Monday.
Once this one week period has ended you can no longer bid for these properties, but a new advertising period will start with a new list of properties.
What is a bid?
When you bid for a property this simply means that you are expressing your interest in a vacant property – this does not involve any money.
By bidding you are putting your name down on a shortlist containing the other people who are also interested in that property. You can only bid for a property if you are eligible for it, and you can bid for up to 2 properties each week.
How do I bid for a property?
Once you are on the housing waiting list you are able to participate in choice based lettings using your housing application number. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Online at www.idealchoicehomes.co.uk
- 24-hour bidding line 0845 5058230
- Text 07537404370
- In person - customer services at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Halls
How is it decided who is successful for a property?
At the end of the advertising period for a property, all the bids received for each property are put in order to produce a shortlist of eligible applicants. This is based on which band you are in and the date of your application.
If your name is at the top of the shortlist you will normally be offered the property (subject to verification checks). If you are offered and decide to refuse the property, it will be offered to the next person on the shortlist.
Most adverts will tell you what band will be given priority for the vacancy. For example, if the property says 'priority to band C', applicants in this band will have priority for the property followed by bands A, B. D and E. If no-one in band C bids for the property, applicants in band A will be next on the shortlist, followed by B, then D, then E.
As long as you are eligible for the property type you can place a bid regardless of which band has priority for the vacancy, but you have more chance of being successful if you are in the band stated on the advert.
It is worth remembering that the person who is number 1 on a shortlist for a property make not take up that offer for a variety of reasons. When this happens we move down the list to number 2, then number 3, and so on.
How do i know if I've been successful for a property?
If you have been successful we will contact you either by telephone, letter or e-mail, whichever is your preferred method. The person who is in position number 1 for a property will normally be contacted within a few days.
Unfortunately we are not able to contact all those who are not successful for a property and so if you hear nothing you should assume you have been unsuccessful and continue to bid for properties.
By logging on to the website you can find out your position on the shortlist for a particular property.
What happens if I don't bid for any properties?
If you do not place any bids you will not be offered accommodation. If you do not see any vacant properties that you are interested in then you don’t have to place any bids. You will not be penalised for not placing bids.
If you are assessed as having a high level of housing need (Band A) and you are regularly not bidding for properties, we will contact you to discuss this.
What happens if I bid for a property but change my mind?
If you change your mind about a bid you can simply withdraw it at any time.
Even if you are offered a property you can change your mind and refuse, however we would encourage you to only bid for properties which you are interested in.
I don't have internet access, does this mean I will miss out?
The system is not first come first served which means that you can bid for a property at any point during the weekly advertising cycle using whichever method is most convenient. For example, if you choose to do this in person at one of the Town Halls, or over the phone, you can access the same information you would get using the website.
We also have touch screens at Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls where you can access the website free of charge. You may also want to think about accessing the internet at the library or other public computers.
How do I know what properties I am eligible for?
When you apply to the housing waiting list you will be informed what type of properties you are eligible for. This will be based on your current circumstances.
The Ideal Choice Homes system will only let you bid for properties you are eligible for. When you access the adverts on the website it will tell you which properties you are eligible for. If you are not eligible it will tell you why, eg wrong number of bedrooms.
What happens if I am not able to place bids for properties?
We are happy for you to give permission to someone to place bids on your behalf. This could be a family member, a friend or a support worker. We would just ask that you inform us who is going to be acting on your behalf.
If you are not able to place bids and there is no-one who can help you with this, we may be able to provide further assistance. Please contact us to discuss this further.