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Check if you can apply for homeless help

This advice applies to England

You can apply to the council to get somewhere to live if you're homeless or you’II become homeless within 8 weeks.

You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless. You can apply for help even if you have somewhere to live but it’s not suitable. For example, if you’re staying on a friend’s sofa or your home is overcrowded.

You can also apply for help if you’ve been given a valid section 21 eviction notice which ends within 8 weeks.

How much help you get depends on your circumstances.

It’s worth applying for help even if you’re not sure you’II get it - councils have to make decisions on a case by case basis.

If you’re not a British Citizen, applying for homeless help could affect your right to stay in the UK. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before applying for help.

If you’re aged 16 to 17 or you’ve recently been living in care, social services usually have to help you with housing. Find out more about when social services must house you.

If you can’t stay in your home because of violence, threats or any other abuse you can apply for homeless help. You can also get help from:

Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time

Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

Find out if you can get help

You can get council help if you're eligible and you're legally homeless or have been threatened with homelessness.

Check if you’re eligible for help  

You’re usually eligible for help if:

  • you’re a British or Irish citizen living in the UK  
  • you’re an EEA national living and working in the UK - find out which countries are in the EEA on GOV.UK
  • you’ve been given special rights to stay in the UK if you’re from abroad - it will usually say in your passport if you have

If you’re not from the UK or you’re a British Citizen and recently returned to the UK, the rules are complex. It’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check if you’re legally homeless or threatened with homelessness

To get help from the council you’II need to be either legally homeless or threatened with homelessness.

You’re legally homeless if:

  • you have nowhere to live in the UK or abroad
  • you have a home but you can’t access it - for example, if your landlord has unlawfully evicted you by changing the locks
  • it wouldn’t be reasonable for you to stay in your home  - for example, because of violence, poor conditions or you can’t afford it
  • you have nowhere you can keep your home if it’s moveable - for example, if it’s a caravan or house boat

You're classed as being threatened with homelessness if:

  • you have to leave your home within 8 weeks - for example, if you're asked to leave somewhere temporary
  • you're given a valid section 21 notice to leave your home and the notice ends within 8 weeks

What help can you get

If you qualify for help the council will first check if they can help you find a new home if you’re already homeless. If you’re threatened with homelessness they’II see if they can help you stay in your home.

You’II usually be given help for 8 weeks. If you're threatened with homelessness and have been given a valid section 21 notice you must be given help for longer.

If you’re threatened with homelessness and your situation changes so you become legally homeless you’II get help for another 8 weeks. You’II be given help to find a new home.  

The council has to work with you to put together a written housing plan, saying exactly how they’II help you stay in your home or find a new one.

For example, if you’re threatened with homelessness they might be able to negotiate with your landlord so you can stay in your home. If you’re already homeless they might be able to give you a deposit to get private rented housing. Find out more about getting a housing plan.  

If the council can’t help you stay in your home or find a new one they’II check if they can give you other help. You might be able to get emergency housing or longer- term housing.

Find out if you can get emergency housing

You can get short-term emergency housing straight away if the council think all these things might apply:

  • you're eligible for help
  • you're legally homeless
  • you're in priority need

If you're threatened with homelessness you can't get emergency housing, but if you later become legally homeless you might be able to get it.

If you're offered emergency housing you could be placed in a bed and breakfast or hostel while the council decides if you qualify for longer-term housing. Find out more about getting emergency housing.

Check if you’re in priority need

You’II be in priority need if you’re:

  • the main carer for a child - this will usually include a child aged 16 to 18 if they’re in full-time education or training
  • pregnant or living with someone who is  
  • homeless because of an emergency - for example a fire or flood
  • 16 or 17 and you’re not living with your family and social services can’t help you - check when you can get help from social services
  • 18 to 20 and you were living in care

You’re also in priority need if it would be more difficult for you to cope with being homeless because of your needs. This is known as being ‘vulnerable’. You might be vulnerable for example because of a disability or old age.

If you don't have a priority need

The council should check if anyone else in your household has a priority need. This includes anyone who it would be reasonable to expect to be living with you. For example, your partner might not be able to live with you because your home is overcrowded.

The council might not check if anyone else in your household has a priority need, so make sure you tell them if anyone does. This will help you get the help you need.

If you were previously considered to be in priority need

In certain cases you can still be treated as being in priority need after you're given housing by the council. This would apply if you were placed in private rented housing and had to reapply for homeless help within 2 years through no fault of your own. Your council should offer you somewhere else to live in this case.

Find out if you can get longer-term housing

If you qualify for emergency housing help, you might be able to get longer-term housing if you didn’t cause your homelessness, known as being ‘intentionally homeless’

The council might also refer you to another council to be housed if you don’t have a local connection, for example by living in the area for sometime.

If you qualify for help you might be offered a council or housing association flat or house, but you could be offered a private rented home instead. Find out more about getting housing from the council.

Check you didn't cause your homelessness

You usually won't get longer-term housing if the council thinks you made yourself homeless. This includes if you:

  • left a home you could have stayed in
  • didn't make rent or mortgage payments you could afford
  • made arrangements with someone to become homeless - for example, getting family to evict you when you didn't have to move out

Having a local connection

If you qualify for longer-term housing the council will only have to give you housing if you have a local connection. Don't worry, you'll still be housed but it might be by another council.

If you don't have a local connection the council can refer you to another council that you have a connection to. They can't do this if you would be at risk of violence in that area. For example, if you have an abusive ex-partner in the area. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you're referred to an area where you would be at risk.

The council might accept you have a local connection to your area if:

  • you've been living in the area for some time - usually for the last 6 months
  • you work in the area
  • you have family living in the area

Find out more about showing you have a local connection.

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