In addition to the council owned properties that you can bid for via Choice Based Lettings it is also possible to bid for housing association properties.
This page explains the differences and similarities between the two types of permanent home.
Housing associations (HAs) are independent not-for-profit organisations that provide low cost housing for people in housing need. They may also be known as Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). Any trading surplus is used to maintain existing homes and to help finance new ones.
They are now the United Kingdom's major providers of new homes for rent. Many also run shared ownership schemes to help people who cannot afford to buy their own homes outright.
In Westminster, we have the right to nominate people to certain properties owned by various local HAs. When the HA has a property available we advertise it through Choice Based Lettings. We say on the advert which HA the property belongs to. We can only put you forward for the properties we advertise and cannot nominate you to go directly on to the HA's own waiting list.
HAs are individual organisations with their own rules and regulations. The council does not have control over these rules and regulations and sometimes, our policies differ from theirs.
One way in which many HAs differ from the council is that they have different bedroom standards - that is, different policies concerning the gender, age and number of people that they will let share a property. Depending on your household composition, you may not be able to bid for certain housing association properties.
We normally draw up the shortlist for HA properties on the Tuesday or Wednesday after bidding closes. If you are in the top five bidders, we will let you know. We will pass your details through to the HA who will contact you directly to arrange the viewing.
Once the viewing has taken place, we ask the HA to offer the property to the highest placed bidder who wants the flat. HAs reserve the right to decline any nomination we make.
Council and HA tenancies have many things in common. Both give you great security but if you break your tenancy agreement the Council or HA can get a court order to take possession of your home under specific conditions (grounds for possession).
Tenancy agreements can vary so it is important that you read the terms before signing. The grounds for possession for council and HA tenancies are similar. In both cases you will lose your security if you do not use the property as your only or main home.
Council and HAs have similar duties to their tenants, for example:
Whether you become a council or a HA tenant your rent will be cheap compared to private tenancies and it can only be increased once a year.
Whoever your landlord, the property will be unfurnished.
Both the council and HAs can offer a transfer. Your position on the transfer list will be based on your housing need, for example, overcrowding. On top of this you will have the right to swap homes with other council or HA tenants. In both cases, if you die your tenancy could pass to a member of your family who lives with you.
Westminster Council offers new tenants a one year introductory tenancy. Once the year is completed you will normally become a flexible tenant.
If you have been a tenant for 5 years, in most cases you will have the right to buy your home. You will get a discount depending on how long you have been renting, up to a maximum of £16,000.
Subject to certain conditions one succession is allowed to a spouse, civil partner or partner.
Housing Associations (also known as Registered Providers) will provide assured tenancies, which, depending upon circumstances, will be issued as lifetime tenancies or more generally as 5 year fixed term tenancies capable of being renewed.
You may have the Right To Acquire if your property was built with funding from the Housing Corporation after April 1997. Check with the individual HA for more information about this. One succession is allowed but only to a spouse, civil partner or partner. Some housing associations allow a discretionary succession to other family members.