Going on the waiting list (selection scheme)
Failing one or more of the 4 homelessness tests means that there is no legal requirement for the Housing Executive to find you somewhere to live. However, you can still get an offer of social housing even if you fail these tests if you get enough points on the Selectin Scheme.
If you're over 18 and you have a local connection to Northern Ireland you can apply for social housing. A housing officer from the Housing Executive will investigate your circumstances to see how many points you should have.
What is the selection scheme?
The selection scheme is a points-based system that the Housing Executive and housing associations in Northern Ireland use when assessing personal circumstances and housing needs of persons applying for housing.
If you apply to the Housing Executive or a housing association, you will be assessed under the selection scheme, awarded points for your various housing needs and ranked accordingly on the common waiting list. Housing associations and the Housing Executive use this list to find new tenants.
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Can I access the housing selection scheme?
If you are over 18, you should be able to apply for housing. You will need to have a local connection with Northern Ireland if you want to apply, i.e. prove that you have residence, or have lived here previously. Being employed in the area or having family ties with the location can also be considered as having a local connection.
You won't usually be allowed to apply if:
- you are under 18,
- you are seeking asylum in Northern Ireland,
- you have engaged in unacceptable behaviour in the place that you were living within the last 2 years.
Unacceptable behaviour includes:
- causing serious nuisance to your neighbours,
- using the property for illegal or immoral purposes,
- allowing the property to deteriorate,
- damaging the accommodation on purpose,
- violent behaviour toward Housing Executive or housing association staff,
- violent behaviour while in Housing Executive temporary accommodation.
The Housing Executive may want to look at the nature of the offence you have been imprisoned for before accepting your application. It can disqualify you from applying for up to two years, if it thinks you have been guilty of unacceptable behaviour in your local area.
The Housing Executive must have reasonable grounds for deciding that you can be disqualified. It shouldn't just look at past behaviour but should also consider the likelihood of you behaving in a similar way in the future.
You can complain if you are unhappy with the decision of the Housing Executive or the housing association. A housing adviser or your probation officer can help you with the complaint.
Certain persons from abroad may also be disqualified from applying for housing, depending on your country of origin, personal circumstances and restrictions imposed by immigration control. The rules for persons from abroad are complicated – seek specialist advice with a housing adviser or the Law Centre NI if you are disqualified from applying due to your nationality.
- Recommended link: Further information on accessing the housing selection scheme is available on eligibility and general rules page of our main website.
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How do I apply?
If you are still in custody, you can get advice on the selection scheme from your Probation Officer or the Housing Advice Development Worker. Once you're in the community you can visit an advice agency like Housing Rights Service for information but you will need to go to a Housing Executive District Office to apply.
You will need to fill in the Housing and transfer application form. The Housing Executive and housing associations both use the same application form. You can download the application form from the Housing Executive’s website or you can pick it up at any Housing Executive or housing association office.
If you are still in prison, your resettlement officer or housing adviser may be able to help you fill in the form and complete a written report about your housing circumstances. An adviser will also be able to liaise with the Housing Executive on your behalf. You can't be awarded any points until you are released but the adviser can help you identify which points you should be entitled to.
If you are applying after release, you will need to fill in the form yourself and return it to any Housing Executive or housing association office.
Even if you applied to a housing association, you will be assessed by the Housing Executive. The Housing Executive will assess your application using the Selection Scheme.
Recommended link: Further information on application process is available on how to apply page of our main website.
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How does the points system work?
When you apply, the Housing Executive will assess your circumstances and award you points in four categories:
- homelessness points,
- housing conditions,
- health/social well being.
Working out your points can be complicated. You can download our Selection Scheme scoresheet or visit our main website to find out more about what points are available under the Selection Scheme.
After the assessment, the Housing Executive will send you a letter to tell you your points total and explain how you got your points. The Housing Executive will place you on the waiting list for permanent accommodation.
Recommended link: Visit "what happens next" page of our main website to find out more about post-assessment phase of your application.
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How long until I’m offered a house?
Accommodation is generally offered to the applicant with the highest number of points. If you have the same number of points as another applicant, the accommodation is offered to the applicant who has been waiting longest.
You will usually only be offered accommodation in the areas you chose when completing your application but these areas are automatically widened if you've been on the list for 6 months and haven't received any offers.
You don't have to accept the accommodation you are offered. You are entitled to three reasonable offers of permanent accommodation. The accommodation must be suitable for your needs and the needs of anyone that lives with you.
If you refuse three reasonable offers of accommodation you will not receive any further offers of permanent accommodation for a year and you will lose your full duty applicant, intimidation and any other homelessness points you may have. If you think that you have been offered unreasonable accommodation you should get advice before refusing the offer.
Keep in mind that social housing is in high demand and people can spend considerable time waiting to be housed. The higher your points total, the sooner you may be offered accommodation.
There is greater demand for housing in some areas than others. If you choose an area with lower demand you'll probably be offered a house more quickly. Speak to a housing adviser or the Housing Executive if you are not sure if your points total will secure you a tenancy offer.
If you have any problems during your application or you think the Housing Executive is not giving you all the points you are entitled to, seek advice from a housing adviser.
Recommended link: Find out about the problems you may come accross when applying for Housing Executive or housing association accommodation. Visit our Common problemspage.
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