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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, we have a mobile app that is available to download for free on iTunes and Google Play. You can use the mobile app to view property details, photos, maps and make bids. You can also see the outcome of past bids and update your personal details

By law councils and housing associations must let most of their vacant homes (“social rented housing”) to the people who are in the most housing need. The Locata scheme is different for different partners, but generally it closely follows the legal definition of “housing need’’, categorising those in overriding need in the highest band.

For most councils the highest band is A (Harrow's A*, Hounslow's 1). Those in very high need are placed in the second band (usually B, Harrow A, Hounslow 2) and those with a particular need in the third band (usually band C, Harrow band B or C, Hounslow 3). If your need to move is not covered by our scheme, e.g. you would like to move to a home with cheaper rent but have no welfare, medical or overcrowding, or need to move, you go into band D with some partners, 4 in Hounslow and some partners will disqualify you from bidding altogether.

If we have assessed you as band D or 4 it is because your need or wish to move does not warrant any priority under the Locata scheme (which closely follows the legal definition of housing need). Before Locata we used to give housing applicants “points”. Band D is the equivalent of “not enough points” for a housing allocation. If you are in band D you will only get an offer through Locata if you are over 50 and bidding for studio or 1-bed properties designated for a minimum age or if you are a housing association tenant bidding on your landlord’s page, or if you are an Ealing band D working household. Even then you will have a very long wait.

Local authority partners have changed their allocation schemes so that those who would have been placed in band D are now disqualified from bidding (with certain exceptions, such as working households in Ealing). We encourage you to seek an alternative solution to solve your housing problem, such as mutual exchange, low cost home ownership, private sector renting or moving out of London. The Locata targeted housing options website is set up to help you find these alternative solutions, and your housing officer will also be happy to advise.

You can only bid for properties advertised by the Locata partner with whom you are registered. For example, if you are registered with Brent, you can bid on Brent’s page and some housing association properties. If you bid on Hillingdon’s page your bids will not count, even if you fit the criteria.

You can also bid for properties on the housing association pages but, since they give priority to their own tenants for these properties, you will have much less chance of being successful for these. In Brent, Ealing and Hillingdon our ‘’handshake’’ initiative gives residents in the borough where the housing association property is located a higher priority than previously (see: What is “Handshake”?)

 

It all depends on what band you are in, how many bedrooms you need, and what you bid for. If you are in the top band you should wait only weeks or months, in the second band your wait could be around a year, but in the third band it will be a lot longer unless you are bidding for sheltered flats, for which the wait is usually no more than a year or so.

If you place restrictions on what you are prepared to accept, your wait will be longer than average. For example, if you bid only for houses and not for flats, only in private roads and not on estates, only for council and not for housing association homes, or only for 1-beds and not for studio flats, you will wait a lot longer because you are competing with more bidders who are also attracted to these kinds of home. The more bedrooms you require the fewer properties we have available. If you need disabled adaptations you may have to wait some time for a suitable property to come up, even if you have been put in one of the top bands.

Waiting times also vary from partner to partner, since some local authorities have greater levels of housing need in relation to the properties they have available. Ask your housing officer for advice on how near you are to success and what kinds of properties you should bid for to maximise your chances of coming in the top 5 on the list.

Housing officers assessing applications will take into account all the information you supply with your housing application and assess it in relation to the banding scheme. If your medical, welfare or overcrowding need to move is relatively low, some partners will assess you as band C, others will disqualify you from bidding. For example, some partners now no longer give priority to families who are short of only one bedroom.

If, however, you have a severe need, or additional/ multiple needs, you will be assessed into a higher band. If you state in your application that you have a medical need to move you will be prompted to complete a medical self-assessment form and, if necessary, we will seek further information from your G.P. or consultant or social worker.

If your circumstances have not changed since your last assessment, but you are able to give us additional information that you did not supply at the time of your last application, you can ask your housing officer to review your band. If your circumstances have changed (e.g. if your address has changed, if your medical needs have changed, or if family members have left or joined the household) you will need to complete an online change of circumstances form so that we can carry out a reassessment.

We will give you priority if your current housing conditions are having a major adverse effect on the medical condition of you or someone in your household that creates a particular need to move. We won’t prioritise you if moving you will not make any difference to the medical condition, even if you have a very severe illness. It’s your current housing that we are looking at when we make that decision.

 

Of course it is always open to you to provide additional information and request a review of the banding decision.

When you apply to the council as homeless and are placed into a hostel or hotel you may already have been on the housing register in band C “unsatisfactory housing conditions” from, say, 01/01/10. If after carrying out our enquiries we accept a homelessness duty towards you, your band and priority date would not change unless and until we discharge our homelessness duty with a suitable housing offer. Different councils have different rules on the banding of accepted homeless people, so speak to your housing officer if you are unsure about yours.
You can check on the Locata website your position in the queue for any of the properties you bid for (although not for bids in the current edition, before bidding closes). If you were in the first 10 or 20 for some properties but not for others this should give you some idea of the types of properties and areas for which you are getting nearer the top of the queue. If you were in the first 10 it’s possible that you may receive an offer to view it.
If you are in the top 5 or 10 eligible bidders for a property you will receive a letter from the landlord inviting you to view it on a certain date and time. If you have any reason to think you might not receive this letter (e.g. your address has changed and you have not informed your housing officer, or you are staying temporarily in hospital or with a relative or friend) you need to contact your housing officer, who should also be able to confirm your actual position on the list and give you useful bidding advice.
If your bid is low down on all the lists you bid on you will not hear from anyone – with 45,000 bids per fortnight we do not have the resources to write to every individual bidder to tell them their positions. However, you can check on the Locata website your position in the queue for any of the properties you bid for.
Some councils change the band of existing housing applicants to D while they investigate homelessness. The Local Government Ombudsman has criticised this practice so if this has happened in your case you should ask your housing officer the reason.

a) You didn’t bid for the property (take advice from your housing officer on how to bid on Locata).

b) Your bid was received after the deadline (your housing officer can advise you as to how to make sure this does not happen in future)).

c) You bid for more than 3 properties in that week (the system ).

will automatically make your extra bids ineligible) d) The property advert specified a particular minimum and maximum person family and yours did not fit (e.g. maximum 3 persons and you have 4 in your family)).

e) The property advert stated that priority would be given to people with mobility problems because of its adaptations, and you are not registered with a mobility level (speak to your housing officer if you think that your case should have been registered with a mobility level that would match you to one of these properties)).

f) You have been registered with a mobility level and bid for a property which we consider unsuitable for someone with that mobility level (e.g. you are in mobility group 3 “can only manage one or two steps” and have bid for an upper floor flat without a lift) ).

g) The property belongs to a housing association whose advert stated that priority would be given to their own tenants).

h) The property was reserved for transferring tenants whereas you are a homeseeker).

i) The property has 4 bedrooms and you are registered for a maximum of 3 (remember, you can bid for fewer bedrooms than you need but not for more).

j) We have been unable to verify your circumstances (i.e. to check that we have given you the correct priority banding – e.g. you are a tenant with rent arrears and have been asked to come in and discuss them, or we have scheduled you for a home visit and have been unable to make contact with you).

If you are in the top 5 or 10 eligible bidders for a property you will receive a letter from the landlord inviting you to view it on a certain date and time. If you have any reason to think you might not receive this letter (e.g. your address has changed and you have not informed your housing officer, or you are staying temporarily with a relative or friend) you need to contact your housing officer, who should also be able to confirm your actual position on the list and give you useful bidding advice.

If your bid is low down all the lists you bid on you will not hear from anyone – with 22,500 bids per week we do not have the resources to write to every individual bidder to tell them their positions. However, you can check on the Locata website your position in the queue for any of the properties you bid for.

You must enter your date of birth to verify your LIN number when bidding by web or telephone. If you have entered both your LIN number and date of birth correctly it’s possible we have entered your date of birth wrongly on our computer system, so you need to contact your housing officer to check this. Your registration may have been cancelled if:-

a) You did not reply to a recent letter or e-mail or text from us asking you to confirm that you wished to keep your registration

b) You have moved recently through Locata

c) Your application has been suspended (e.g. if you have a current right to buy application, or high rent arrears).

In all cases you need to contact your housing officer if you think our decision is wrong. It is only by you telling us that we would be able to identify a fault or an error on the Locata computer system.

 

It means that the allocations officer hasn’t yet offered the property to anyone, usually because it isn’t yet ready to view.

Shortlisting is the process allocations officers go through when they look at their computer screen to see the list of bidders for a property. The list is in order by band and priority date and the allocation officer starts at the top of the list and offers the property to the first bidder, unless there is some reason why they should not – for example if they are informed that the person has high rent arrears, or the property advert specified the family should have at least 2 children and they only have 1.

Most Locata partners will then go on to offer a viewing of the property to 4 or more other people going down the list consecutively.

There is no set time. We advertise properties at the earliest possible stage when we are pretty sure they are going to become available. Sometimes you will be notified within a few days of the bidding closing, in cases where a property is ready to view and we have already scheduled a viewing. At other times there may be a delay, for example where an outgoing tenant has given notice and stays longer than they expected, or where an inspection has shown that the property will require substantial works doing to it before it can be re-let. The delay on viewing newly built properties can be substantial.

You can expect to receive a letter from the landlord inviting you to view the property on a certain date and time if you are in the top 5 or 10 eligible bidders. If you have any reason to think you might not receive this letter (e.g. your address has changed and you have not informed your housing officer, or you are staying temporarily with a relative or friend) you need to contact your housing officer, who should also be able to confirm your actual position on the list and give you useful bidding advice.

We appreciate any information from the public about our properties and welcome being told of an empty property that we may not have been aware of. However, one of the aims of Locata is to have a fair allocations system that is transparent to all its members. We try to avoid allocating any properties outside the Locata system. When we do so it is for reasons of urgency and other special reasons which have nothing to do with whether particular customers are interested in particular properties. You will have the opportunity to bid for that property alongside all our other Locata members when it is advertised.

If you don’t see it advertised it is probably because:-

a) It wasn’t empty in the first place – the tenant returned to it, or

b) It’s not a council-owned property – it was previously acquired under the Right to Buy laws, or

c) It required major works and/or was earmarked for adaptations for a wheelchair user, and this work will take some time to complete.

The answer is that we don’t have many 4+ bed properties. Less than 5% of social housing stock has 4 or more bedrooms. These do not often become vacant. The vast majority of those that do come up are in fact advertised in Locata Home.
It means that you are in the top 20 bidders for that property, out of however many (sometimes more than 1,000) others who expressed an interest in that property. So you are getting near your goal of being successful on Locata provided you bid for the right properties. Your housing officer should be able to give you advice on how to maximise your chances from this position, and the feedback reports in Locata Home will enable you to compare your band and date with those who have been successful

Your band is the main priority tool, so if you are in band C or D (Hounslow 3 or 4) there is always the danger that you will be overtaken by band A*, A and B (Hounslow 1 or 2) members. There are always more properties than there are band A*, A and B members, so there are always opportunities for band C members, but their wait will be longer. It depends on who bids for (and decides to accept) the particular property you are interested in and their band and date relative to you.

The law requires councils and housing associations to let their homes (“social rented housing”) to the people who are in the most housing need. The Locata scheme is different for different partners, but generally it closely follows the legal definition of housing need, categorising those in overriding need in the highest band. For most councils the highest band is A (Harrow’s is A*, Hounslow’s is 1). Those in very high need are placed in the second band (usually B, Harrow A, Hounslow 2) and those with a particular need in the third band (usually band C, Harrow band B or C, Hounslow band 3).

Your band is the main priority tool, so if you are in band C or D (Hounslow 3 or 4) there is always the danger that you will be overtaken by band A*, A and B (Hounslow 1 or 2) members. There are always more properties than there are band A*, A and B members, so there are always opportunities for band C members, but their wait will be longer. It depends on who bids for (and decides to accept) the particular property you are interested in and their band and date relative to you.

The law requires councils and housing associations to let their homes (“social rented housing”) to the people who are in the most housing need. The Locata scheme is different for different partners, but generally it closely follows the legal definition of housing need, categorising those in overriding need in the highest band. For most councils the highest band is A (Harrow’s is A*, Hounslow’s is 1). Those in very high need are placed in the second band (usually B, Harrow A, Hounslow 2) and those with a particular need in the third band (usually band C, Harrow band B or C, Hounslow band 3).

Housing associations advertise up to 25% of their vacant properties (those to which the council does not have nomination rights) on their own section of Locata, and give priority to their own tenants for these properties. If you are not one of that association’s tenants (or you are their tenant but are registered only with your local authority) your bid stands much less chance of success.

However, in Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon* our “handshake” initiative gives residents in the borough where the housing association property is located a higher priority than previously. Priority in these cases is by band, so the housing association’s tenants in band A in date order get priority, followed by other borough residents (both council and other housing associations’ tenants) in band A in date order, through B, C and D in the same way. This means that no longer will band C or D association tenants be successful in preference to band A and B council tenants in their own borough.

*NB: Ealing and Hounslow are not taking part in “Handshake”.

Every tenth property (by bed size) that a partner advertises in Locata Home is taken automatically by Locata and put on the cross partner page. These are known as “random cross partner” properties. Partners can exclude particular properties but only for a limited range of reasons, and this does not affect the total numbers of properties taken (i.e. 10%). Partners with properties that they consider “hard to let” can add these voluntarily to their 10% quota – these are known as “voluntary cross partner” properties. (There is no way to distinguish between these two types of cross partner properties on the page.)

The aim of the partners is that they will export as many of their own applicants as they import other partners’ applicants. So where one partner loses out on cross partner lettings we increase the percentage of properties being selected and where a partner is gaining we reduce their percentage. Gaining partners also sometimes designate properties to be advertised on a losing partner’s page.

The system shows you only those properties you are eligible for. The basic matches (controlled by the Locata system and strictly applied) are to your:-

a) bed size (only showing the maximum number of bedrooms you are eligible for)

b) housing list (e.g. homeseekers don’t get to bid for transfer-only lists)

c) minimum and maximum occupants (e.g. you can’t bid for a 2 bedroom 3 person unit if you are a 2 bedroom 4 person family)

d) partner (e.g. if you are registered with Brent you can’t bid in Ealing).

NB: Cross partner advertising is temporarily suspended following updates to our partners’ allocations schemes. We hope to reinstate this shortly.

However there can be other matches controlled by partners where policies differ, such as mobility, age restrictions and sheltered approval, and these are not applied consistently or strictly through the eligibility on the website.

 

Generally, but not always, we invite 5 viewers to look at a property. Not all five will always turn up, either because they regret having bid for that property, or because they have another appointment that they consider more important. Applicants in very great housing need who turn up to the viewing may turn down good quality properties. For example a band B applicant who needed to move imminently because their home was to be demolished refused a 3 bedroom centrally heated house in a desirable area because it didn’t have double-glazing. We have learned as housing officers never to assume we know what people really want.
Sometimes the accompanied viewing officer may be able to be flexible and invite a disabled person to view perhaps 10 minutes before or after the other viewers. Sometimes this isn’t possible because the officer has too tight a schedule of other viewings to get through. It’s always worth asking when you call to confirm that you will be attending at the time stated on your invitation to view. We will accommodate your special needs if we can reasonably do so.

It certainly isn’t a question of who puts in their acceptance first, as one complainant thought. We go down the list in priority order (band A*, A’s first, band B’s second, band C’s third, each band in priority date order, depending who has bid for this property).

Sometimes we have to reject the highest priority applicant if we are unable to verify them. If, for example, you are in council-provided accommodation and we discover that you have high rent arrears and have made no repayment arrangement or haven’t kept to that agreement for at least 3 months, we will be unable to sign you up for a new tenancy. The same applies if we visit you and discover that your current housing does not warrant the high priority band you have been put in, or that you are not living at the address you registered from and have not informed us of your change of circumstances.

So a typical example might be: no. 1 (band A) refuses; no. 2 (band B) has arrears; no. 3 (band B) fails to turn up to the viewing; no. 4 (band C) refuses; no. 5 (band C) accepts and is verified – then we will sign up no. 5 on the list.

We try to advertise our vacant homes as early as possible so that we can let them as soon after they become empty as possible. It’s important for us to ensure that, as far as possible, there are no empty homes “lying around” for any longer than necessary to carry out essential works on them. So as soon as a tenant gives notice to quit we advertise their home on Locata, which often means that there are still tenants in residence when you see the advert.

When you consider that there may be up to 1,000 people interested in bidding for that home, it would not be very nice for that tenant to have people staring into their windows and knocking on their door uninvited. Unfortunately, no matter how responsible you as an individual may be if you were given this information, our experience is that there are always people who will thoughtlessly and selfishly bother an outgoing tenant. This is why we don’t tell you the full address until we are ready to offer you a viewing, which may not be immediately after bidding closes, especially if the outgoing tenant’s move is delayed for any reason.

When bidding closes, all those who bid for a particular property appear on a list that the allocations officer can see on their computer screen. The list is in order by band and priority date. It does not make any difference whether you bid first or last that week – as long as your bid is received by the deadline it goes onto the list in the correct position. So bidders in band A (Harrow band A*, Hounslow band 1) come first, in priority date order, followed by those in band B, C and D (Hounslow 2, 3 and 4). Those who are not eligible for that property (e.g. if they are a family of 6 persons bidding for a maximum 5 person house) are greyed out on the list, in the order they would have been if they had been eligible.

The allocations officer starts at the top of the list and offers the property to the first bidder, unless there is some reason why they should not – for example if they are informed that the person has high rent arrears, or the property advert specified the family should have at least 2 children and they only have 1. Most Locata partners will then go on to offer a viewing of the property to 4 or more other people going down the list consecutively. Those who are already first for, and offered, a property will not usually be offered a viewing of any other property until we have accepted their refusal of that one.

We are trying to improve the amount of information, but unfortunately landlord databases don’t always include room measurements and busy void surveyors will always prioritise specifying the repair works needed over collecting general information for advertising. We do try to draw your attention to properties that may be different from the norm, e.g. if there is an especially small kitchen, so that you will have better idea what to expect and will not bid if this feature is particularly important to you.
We do try to do this, but not all properties are actually inspected before they are advertised; e.g. if a tenant goes into a nursing home we will not have access to inspect. Most landlords give new tenants a decoration allowance, unless the property has been newly decorated.