Housing options

Published: 30 July 2010

Like everyone else in the UK, people with HIV need somewhere to call home. However, their HIV status may affect their decisions on where and how they live.

Broadly speaking, people access housing in the UK in three different ways. They can:

  • rent from a private landlord
  • rent social housing
  • buy a property.

Renting from a private landlord

Like all potential tenants, people living with HIV should be clear about their legal rights and responsibilities when renting a property. Shelter publish a guide on renting from a private landlord, including information on types of tenancy agreements and tenants’ rights and responsibilities. It is available to download from www.shelter.org.uk.

Discrimination on the basis of HIV status is illegal. It is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent a property just because a potential tenant is HIV-positive.

Renting social housing

Social housing is secure, affordable housing provided to people in need. It is usually provided by local authorities and not-for-profit organisations including co-operatives and housing associations.

Each social housing provider will have a written allocation policy stating the kind of housing they provide, who can apply and what factors will be considered during the application process. Some housing associations have accommodation available specifically for people living with HIV.

Requests for social housing usually go through local authorities. Applicants will be placed on a waiting list and given priority according to their situation through a points system. Although applicants can inform the local authority about their HIV status, and it may be taken into consideration, it does not guarantee being given priority.

Priority for social housing

Under Section 167 of the Housing Act 1996, all local authorities have to have set criteria for allocating social housing – though this can differ between authorities.

However, by law local authorities have to offer priority to:

  • the homeless, or people about to lose their home
  • people living in unsanitary or unsuitable conditions
  • people living in overcrowded conditions
  • people who need to move on medical and welfare grounds relating to disability.

This final point is likely to be most relevant to people living with HIV.

Because an HIV-positive status is no guarantee of getting priority, it’s important that people in need of housing, who are living with HIV, build a case for accessing social housing on medical grounds. The best way to do this is to visit their HIV clinician, GP or support worker and get written evidence of their situation which can be presented to a housing officer.

Because not all housing officers are aware of why people with HIV need stable housing, NAT (National AIDS Trust) has published a guide for housing officers, presenting the facts. This could be useful to include as part of the application. It’s called ‘HIV and Housing: a practical guide’ and is available to download from their website: www.nat.org.uk.

Social housing and changing needs

The needs of someone living with HIV can change over time. Social housing that was originally ideal can become difficult to live in if their symptoms become worse. For example, if their mobility becomes limited it can be difficult to get up stairs to a top floor flat.

In this situation someone living in social housing can:

  • ask for a transfer to more suitable housing
  • ask for modifications to be made to their existing accommodation.

The first step for either option is to apply to the local authority. They will then be given a needs assessment on which their application will be judged. Again, it’s important to present a strong case for either option, and presenting GP’s and case worker’s evidence can help secure the right outcome.

Buying a property

Most people in the UK need to take out a mortgage if they want to buy a home.

Being HIV-positive should not be a barrier to successfully getting a mortgage. Although banks and other lenders will ask about the applicant’s financial situation, they won’t ask questions about HIV status. 

In the past, mortgage policies often required applicants to take out life assurance or critical illness cover. It is rarely the case now that insurance is a requirement, but anyone thinking of taking out a mortgage should consider how they would keep up payments if they became unwell, or how any dependents might manage without their income if they were to die.

There are currently very few life assurance policies that cover people with HIV and providing false information will invalidate a policy.

Claiming benefits

Finding somewhere to live and running a home can be expensive. On top of saving a deposit and paying removal costs, cash may be needed to furnish a new home and pay day-to-day utility bills.

People living with HIV are not entitled to benefits just because of their HIV status, but it may influence what they can claim. The Benefits Adviser tool at the government’s public services website www.direct.gov.uk can help work out entitlement to state benefits to cover housing costs.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.