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6 Losing your Home

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1. Introduction

2. Will the council find me somewhere to live?

If you are homeless or likely to become homeless within 28 days, the local council may have to offer you somewhere else to stay or to live, temporarily or longer term. The offer of somewhere to live may also apply to someone who normally lives or might reasonably live with you as a member of your family, and will depend on your circumstances. The council must offer you somewhere if you are:

  • homeless through no fault of your own;
  • in 'priority need'; and
  • 'eligible for assistance'.

However, the council may advise you to apply to a different council for housing if you have a 'local connection' there, but no connection with its area (see 'What is a 'local connection'?').

How does the council decide if I am in priority need?
The rules that describe priority need in England are different to those in Wales. However, you are in priority need in either England or Wales if:

  • you are responsible for children;
  • you or someone you live with is pregnant;
  • you are homeless because of an emergency such as a fire, flood or other disaster; or
  • you or someone you live with is vulnerable because of their old age, physical disability or mental illness or for another special reason.

In England you will also be in priority need if you are considered vulnerable because:

  • you or someone you live with has been in the armed forces, prison, custody or detention in the past; or
  • you or someone you live with cannot stay at home because of violence or harassment or threats of these. This might be because of your religion, gender or ethnic origin, or for another reason.

In England you should also be found somewhere to live if you are:

  • 16 or 17 years old;
  • 18 to 20 years old and you used to be in care; or
  • over 21 years old and classed as vulnerable because you have been looked after or accommodated by your local authority, or you have been fostered or in care.

If you fall into one of these three groups, the situation is complicated. Social Services, rather than the housing department, may be responsible for finding you somewhere to live, depending on your cirsumstances. If you are not considered in 'priority need', social services must find you somewhere to live. If the two departments cannot agree which of them is responsible for you, you should get advice, because one or other of them must find you somewhere to live. See 'Further help' for details of organisations which can help you.

In Wales you are also in priority need if:

  • you are 16 or 17 years old;
  • you are 18 to 20 years old and you used to be in care, or are at risk of financial or sexual exploitation;
  • you can't stay at home, or you are at risk if you return home because of domestic violence or threats of domestic violence;
  • you have been in the armed forces and have been homeless since you left; or
  • you have been homeless since being in prison or custody, and you have a local connection with the area you apply to.

And in Wales, a 'special reason' can include:

  • being under threat of violence, or sexual or racial harassment or abuse;
  • being a former asylum seeker; or
  • having HIV or AIDS.

How does the council decide if I am vulnerable?
In deciding whether you are vulnerable, the council should consider whether your personal circumstances mean that being homeless will have a particularly serious effect on you. You should get advice if you are not sure, or if you think that you might be able to get help for some other reason. Your doctor, or your social worker or support worker if you have one, should be able to help you with your case if you or someone you live with is vulnerable.

Am I eligible for assistance?
Most people are 'eligible for assistance'. However, you may not be eligible if you have come from abroad and:

  • you don't normally live in the UK;
  • you aren't entitled to claim benefit;
  • you recently returned to the UK after living abroad for some time; or
  • (in some cases) you are 'subject to immigration control'.

The law is complicated and you should get advice if you are not sure. whether you are eligible for assistance. If you are an asylum seeker, you will not normally be able to get help from the housing department of the council. See the CLS Direct leaflet 'Claiming Asylum', for more information about your rights, and also for the names and phone numbers of organisations that can help you.

If the local council believes that you are homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need, then it must make sure you have somewhere to live immediately while it makes enquiries and investigates your case. This may be bed-and-breakfast, hostel or hotel accommodation. In England, if you or someone else in your household is pregnant or has responsibility for children, the council can house you in bed-and-breakfast accomodation only in an emergency, and then only for a maximum of six weeks. In Wales, these limits on using bed-and-breakfast accommodation do not apply.

The council must go on providing accommodation for you until it has finished investigating your case and has told you the decision. If a decision goes against you and you challenge it, the council can continue to house you while it looks again at your case, but it does not have to.

If the council offers you unsuitable accommodation, tell them why it is unsuitable (see 'What if the council offers me somewhere unsuitable?'). But don't reject it outright without getting advice first, because the council may refuse to find you an alternative.


3. Does it matter how I become homeless?

4. What if the council offers me somewhere unsuitable?

5. What can I do if I disagree with the council's decision?

6. Where can I go if I need somewhere to stay urgently?

7. What if my landlord wants to evict me?

8. What can I do if my landlord is harassing me?

9. Further help

10 About this leaflet

Logo of ShelterThis leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Shelter.

Leaflet version: June 2019

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