What is Gateway to Homechoice? Gateway to Homechoice a choice-based lettings scheme covering Babergh, Mid Suffolk, Braintree, Colchester, Ipswich, Maldon and East Suffolk local authority areas where available social properties are advertised on a weekly basis. If you wish to be re-housed in an area outside of this, please contact the local authority responsible for that area.
Who can join Gateway to Homechoice? Anyone over the age of 16* can apply to Gateway to Homechoice, however, to be accepted onto the housing register, you must meet the eligibility criteria.
If I join Gateway to Homechoice am I guaranteed to be offered a property? No applicant is guaranteed to be offered a property. This is because the demand for housing is far greater than the supply of housing in the Gateway areas.
If I don’t want a council house, can I still register with Gateway to Homechoice? Yes, housing association properties are also advertised through the scheme.
What information will I need to provide to join the housing register? You will need to provide the following information for you and each member of your household:
- Name and address of all household members (including children);
- National Insurance number;
- Telephone contact numbers;
- Email address;
- Current and previous address history for the last 6 years for all household members;
- Date of birth for all household members (including children);
- Details about your local connection to the Gateway area;
- Information about medical conditions if relevant to your housing application;
- Employment/Income details;
- Share code (if applicable).
Why do l have to complete a housing history when l have already done it in the application? This information is needed to expand on details given in the application form - for example, property type, size, tenure, reason why left, who forms the household.
What happens after I have completed the application form? The relevant local authority will assess your housing needs and will ask you to provide supporting verification and evidence for your application, including proof of identity for all household members, proof of your address, a reference from your current landlord, proof of your income and other financial details and any other supporting information requested by the local authority so they can verify your identity and ensure that your application has been assessed correctly. Further information on how the Gateway to Homechoice scheme prioritises applications can be found here.
In most circumstances, you will have to provide all the information asked for within 14 days. Failure to provide us with the information we ask for may affect the assessment of your application or it may be closed without further notification. If you are aware there may be a delay in submitting any of the information asked for, you should contact the relevant local authority as soon as possible.
Once you have provided and the local authority has received all of the relevant information requested, your application will be activated and you will receive an email or letter informing you which band you have been placed in, what your effective date is and what size property you are eligible for.
I have access to children that do not live with me full time. Can this be taken into consideration when you assess my banding and bedroom entitlement? Applicants with a shared residence order or staying access for children are not automatically entitled to bedrooms for their children in these circumstances. Each Gateway local authority would assess each case on its own merit.
How can I provide the documents you have requested? Please upload documents to your application at any time from the “My Account” screen once you have logged onto your Gateway to Homechoice account at www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk. Instructions on uploading documents can be found here - the maximum file size you can upload is 4MB and the file name must be no more than 60 characters. Your documents need to be in one of the following formats to be uploaded: doc, docx, rtf, pdf, tif, tiff, jpg, jpeg, jif, png, bmp, pptx or txt.
What happens if I don’t provide the required documents? If you do not provide the required documents within 28 days of the local authority requesting them then your application will be cancelled. If you have a problem getting the requested information within 28 days because you are waiting for a new birth certificate or passport to be sent to you please discuss this with the relevant local authority as soon as possible.
How long will it take to process my application? Gateway local authorities aim to conclude their assessment of all applications within 28 working days from when they are received. Many applications will be processed before this, but some might take longer if they require specific information from you or other involved parties.
My circumstances have changed and I need to update my application, how can I do this? To update your application, please go to www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk and use your login details to access your account. You can view each page of your application here and make any necessary changes. Please ensure that you save your changes by navigating to the last page and selecting “submit”.
Do I need to renew my application each year? Yes, once a year you will be asked to review your application to check that all of the information we hold about you is accurate. If you do not renew your application within 28 days, we will close your application. (Applications closed due to this reason can be re-opened if within 3 months of closure date. In this instance, please do not make a new application, please contact the relevant local authority to request your application be reactivated.)
What if I need help to access the Gateway website? The following contains information on our onsite accessibility tools, these can help how you view our website https://www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk/Help/Accessibility.
What does my application status mean?
Active – your application is active and you can bid on properties.
Housing Register Not Active – the local authority is processing your application or waiting for you to provide information/verification documents, or your account has been suspended. You cannot place bids during this stage.
Your application is currently being reviewed – your application has been suspended. You should receive confirmation from the local authority or landlord regarding how long you have been suspended from bidding for. You cannot place bids during this stage.
Under Review Active – Your application is being reviewed by the local authority – you can still place bids.
Closed – Your application has been closed. You cannot place bids during this stage.
How do I check if I qualify for a local connection in the Gateway? For full details, please refer to our Allocations Policy sections #4.4 – 4.10:
4.4 Local Connection
- Applicants will have a local connection to the area of operation of Gateway to Homechoice if they meet one or all of the criteria below:
- Their only or principal home is within the boundaries of the district or borough covered by the scheme.
- They were placed in specialised housing which is not available in the area of the scheme but had a local connection previously through residence.
- They (not a member of their household) are in permanent paid work in one of the partner districts or boroughs.
- They have a son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father, who is aged 18 or over and lives in the area of the scheme and has done so for at least five years.
- A family member may live within different Gateway local authority areas as long as they have continuously lived within the Gateway area of operation for 5 years and this will give their close family member a local connection subject to any individual property restrictions, e.g. s106 or local lettings plan. The local connection will be where the family member currently lives and the corresponding local authority will host the application.
Homeless care leavers aged 18 – 20 who have been looked after by either Essex County Council or Suffolk County Council will have a local connection with every housing authority within the county that looked after them.
If I have a local connection, why do you need more information than their name and address - can’t you do a search/why cannot you not just use the system to look this up? For data protection purposes, we need permission to access another person’s record. Additionally, we need evidence of the connection between the applicant and person.
How do I login to my Gateway to Homechoice account? You need to enter your login reference (given to you once you have registered), your “memorable date” (this is your date of birth for example 01 01 2000 unless you have changed it to something else) and your password. Further instructions can be found here.
I have forgotten my “password” or other login details, what do I need to do? Please check any correspondence we have sent you, as your login reference is likely to have been stated. You can use the “I have forgotten my login reference” link on the log-in page of the Gateway website. You will be asked to enter the email address that is associated with your account. You will then be sent an email containing your login reference. If you require any assistance, please contact the relevant local authority.
When I try and login, it states that I do not have an active application, what does this mean? This means that your application has either been suspended or closed. Please contact the relevant local authority team for further information on what you need to do to get your application activated.
How do I know that my personal information is kept securely? The Gateway to Homechoice website is subject to a secure certificate. For more information about how the Gateway manages your personal information, please go to www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk/PrivacyPolicy.
How often are properties advertised? Properties which are available for rent are advertised each week on Thursday mornings until just before midnight on Wednesdays. You can bid for properties at any time during the bidding cycle; there is no advantage to bidding earlier in the cycle.
Where are properties advertised? They are advertised here - properties which are suitable for you will also be displayed when you log into your Gateway account. You can also bid for the properties that you are interested in when you log in to your Gateway account.
I live in a social housing property which is too big for me, what can I do? You can apply to join the housing register and ask to move to a smaller property.
Does Gateway to Homechoice advertise sheltered accommodation? Yes, sheltered housing is advertised along with all other available properties. If you are interested in sheltered housing, please let us know when you apply.
I need to move urgently. How soon can I be offered alternative accommodation? Gateway to Homechoice is a waiting list, and as there is a greater demand than supply of properties, it can take some time before alternative housing is offered. If you are facing an emergency, which means that you need accommodation very quickly, you should contact the Housing Options/Housing Needs Teams in the relevant local authority who will provide you with advice on your housing problem and signpost you to the most appropriate services available to you.
What is a restricted property? A restricted property is one where you need to meet specific criteria to be able to bid/be shortlisted. For example, you may need to have a local connection with a certain area. If the property is restricted, it should be clearly stated on the advert’s property information. If you have further queries about a restricted property, please contact the landlord responsible for advertising the property in question. Further information can be found in the scheme's Allocations Policy (#4.9; 7.10 & 7.11).
Are all vacant properties advertised on Gateway to Homechoice? There are some occasions where a vacancy may not be advertised for everyone to bid on. For further information, please view our Allocations Policy (#7.12).
Can l have the room dimensions of a property to see if my furniture will fit? If you are invited to view the property, you can ask the relevant housing provider to give you the room dimensions if they have them. You will usually only be offered one viewing.
What does placing a bid mean? Placing a bid means registering your interest in a property.
How many properties can I bid for each week? You can bid for up to two properties each week.
Do I have to use my two bids every week? Most applicants are not required to place two bids every week. However, if you do not use your bids effectively, it may take much longer for you to be rehoused. There are some applicants who are expected to bid on all suitable accommodation advertised. If this relates to you, you should have been advised of this in writing.
When can I place a bid? You can place bids when:
- your application is active;
- you are eligible for that property; and
- you have not already exceeded your bidding limit for that cycle.
Active applicants can place up to two bids within each cycle, which starts at midnight on a Wednesday through to midnight the following Wednesday.
How do I place a bid? You can place a bid once you have logged in to your Gateway to Homechoice account and you have an active application. Further information can be found here.
Does it matter when I place my bid during the bidding cycle? No. It does not matter whether you are the first person to bid during the bidding cycle or the last. Your final position on the shortlist is usually determined by your band and effective date, not when you placed your bid.
I do not have access to a computer. How can I bid? If you (or someone on your behalf) cannot place a bid, you can use our automated bidding telephone line on 0845 2700724 or contact the relevant local authority for assistance.
Can I change a bid if I decide I want to bid on a different property? Yes, it is possible to withdraw one or both of your bids that cycle by logging in to your Gateway to Homechoice account. If you have not used both of your bids (and there are other eligible properties) then you may place a bid on a different property.
How will I know if my bid has been successful or not? A landlord or local authority may contact you if you finish in the top three on a shortlist, or further down if those above you are not suitable for an offer of accommodation. You will usually be telephoned, emailed, sent a text or web message via your Gateway to Homechoice account to discuss your application/bids further. If you placed in the top three and are not put forward for a viewing, you will be advised of the reason why. If you fail to respond to our attempts to contact you within a reasonable amount of time, you may be bypassed for that property. Please therefore ensure that you make yourself available, that we have your up-to-date contact information and respond quickly to any messages we may leave.
Why does my position in the shortlist change through the week? The system automatically sorts the shortlist as bids are received until the closing date of that week’s cycle. Your final position on the shortlist is the correct one and is usually determined by your band and effective date, not when you placed your bid.
If my bid is successful, can you send a letter as well as email because l don’t always check my emails? Currently, this is not possible and you will need to regularly check your spam junk folder for emails, however, the first time you have to check for an email and move it from spam/junk, all subsequent Gateway emails will be sent to your main inbox. The Gateway are working on system improvements and hope to have the capacity for letters to appear in the system also.
I am shown eligible properties in areas that I do not want to live, why is this? The “eligible properties” link within your Gateway to Homechoice account will show you all eligible properties across all the local authority areas within this scheme. If you only want to see properties in a specific area, you need to use the search and filter options to select your chosen area(s).
Why won't the system let me bid for certain properties? You can only bid on properties for which you meet the qualifying criteria. The size of property for which you qualify for will be on your joining email/letter and when you log into your account. If you try to apply for, for example, a bigger property than you are entitled to, the system will not allow you do this.
I have been assessed as requiring a specific type of housing/adapted property due to my medical needs. Do I have to bid on only that type of accommodation? It is recommended that you do. If you have been assessed as requiring specialist accommodation, then you should bid on that type of accommodation as it is more likely to meet your housing need. If you bid on properties that do not meet your assessed need, you may be bypassed on the shortlist if the property is considered unsuitable.
How will I know if it is worth bidding on a property? When you select a property to bid on the website will tell you what position you are in for that property at that moment in time. Your position on the shortlist is likely to change throughout the bidding cycle for that property. So, for example, if you can see that you are 100th on the shortlist for a property you will know that there is little chance of being offered that property and you may wish to select another. After each letting cycle, we will show information about properties which were recently let and we will show the band and effective date of the successful applicant for each property.
My bids keep being unsuccessful. Is there any point in me carrying on bidding? The lower your housing band, the longer it will take for you to be housed and if you are in Band E, it is unlikely that you will be housed through the Gateway. For more information on the length of waiting times, please use the average wait time tool and recent lets Property Search. This information will give you a better idea of how popular a particular property or area is and how long you would normally have to wait. You can then decide whether to look for other types of property or areas where you may not have to wait as long. In addition, the Annual Report shows the latest data for waiting times under section 9. If you are in the lower bands, you may want to consider other housing options such as private rented accommodation or low cost home ownership.
How will I afford to move if my accepted bid is successful? We recommended that applicants put the appropriate financial provisions in place to cover their moving costs and rent in advance, which is now required by most Gateway housing providers and landlords. You may be eligible to apply for DHP for moving costs - please check with the relevant local authority.
How long will it take for me to get housed? This depends on where you want to live and what type of property you need. In some areas, there is very high demand for certain types of properties so in these circumstances, you are likely to wait for a property for a long time. In other areas, there may be more properties available. You can increase your chances of being rehoused by:
- regularly logging in to check if suitable properties are being advertised;
- being as flexible as possible regarding the type of accommodation you will consider; and
- being as flexible as possible regarding the areas you are willing to move to.
The more specific you are with your choices, the longer you are likely to wait.
For more information on the length of waiting times, please use the average wait time tool and recent lets Property Search. This information will give you a better idea of how popular a particular property or area is and how long you would normally have to wait. You can then decide whether to look for other types of property or areas where you may not have to wait as long.
Why can’t I find the property I have bid on anymore on the website? Properties are advertised weekly and will not appear after the advertising cycle for that week has closed. You can still find the property advert information after this time by visiting the history and searching the address.
I am going to be homeless soon - what should I do? If you are threatened with homelessness, you should contact the Housing Advice or Housing Options team based in the local authority where you live. They have a legal responsibility to assess your needs and will advise you in more detail about your housing options. Contact details for the Gateway local authorities Housing Options teams are:
- Babergh & Mid Suffolk - 0300 123 4000 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Braintree - 01376 552525 - email@example.com
- Colchester - 01206 580292 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- East Suffolk - 01502 523524 - email@example.com
- Ipswich - 01473 432000 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Maldon - 01621 854477 - Housingoptions@maldon.gov.uk
I am fleeing domestic abuse, how can Gateway to Homechoice support me? Applicants fleeing domestic abuse may meet the criteria for additional preference or other relevant sections of the Allocations Policy (#2.2; 4.13; 5.12; 7.12).
I am a seeking asylum or refugee status, what help is available? Information for those seeking asylum or refugee status can be found here. Information specific to Ukrainian Refugees can be found here.
I am/have been a member of the armed forces/reserve forces – do I qualify for any additional preference? Yes, for full details please refer to our Allocations Policy sections #2.3; 4.5 and 5.1.
I am a council or housing association tenant who wants to move - what band will I be in? Tenants living in council or housing association homes are assessed in the same way as other tenants. Your current housing circumstances will be assessed and you will be given the band which reflects how urgently you need to move. For example, if your home is overcrowded or you have an urgent need to move, you will usually be given a higher banding. However, if your current home is suitable for your needs, you will be given a lower band and it might be quicker to find another council or housing association tenant to swap homes with. This is called a mutual exchange.
I have rent arrears. Will I be able to move? Applicants that have current arrears may not be shortlisted, despite having a need to move. You should look to clear your arrears as soon as possible in full or by a suitable agreement with your landlord. Applicants who have arrears from a former tenancy may receive a reduced priority or be bypassed for accommodation if they have not cleared or failed to make a suitable payment to reduce the arrears. Please contact the relevant local authority to discuss in detail.
How do you make sure that the scheme is fair? In accordance with our Allocations Policy, we place applicants in bands according to their current circumstances and housing need. Within each band, every applicant is registered with an effective date. The effective date is how long the person has been on the waiting list for, or when they qualified for a higher band. This means that when placing bids, the applicant in the highest band with the longest effective date is usually successful.
I have recently received a decision regarding my band or other aspect of my application and I disagree with the decision. What should I do? You have the right to ask for a review of decisions made about your application for housing or offer of accommodation. This includes: -
- decisions about refusing to allow an applicant to join the register
- removing an application from the register
- size or type of property
- assessments of bands
- offers of housing
You may request a review of the decision within 21 days of receiving the written decision. The request would usually be made in writing and you should provide any supporting information you have to support your request. For further information on review requests and appeals, please refer to our Allocations Policy.