Housing rights while pregnant
Having children is one of life's biggest changes and could dramatically change your housing needs. This section explains how your legal rights in relation to housing are affected by pregnancy.
If you are living with other people
Living with other people can provide emotional and practical support while you are pregnant. However, it is very important to understand the housing rights you have. These will depend on:
- who you live with (for example, whether you are married or in a civil partnership, living with your partner or staying with family friends) - you can find out more about your rights when you live together
- whether it is rented or owner-occupied
- if it is owner-occupied, whether you are joint owners, or one of you is the sole owner
- if you are renting, what type of tenancy or license it is (you can use our tenancy checker to work this out) and whose name the agreement is in - you can find out more about your rights if you share rented accommodation.
If you are a young person living with your parents you have very limited rights.
If you are thinking of moving in with a partner you should consider how this will affect your rights.
A housing adviser can explain how different options would affect your rights - use our directory to find one in your area.
If you have nowhere to stay
If you are pregnant and you have no accommodation, you can make a homelessness application to your local council. You do not have to be living on the street to do this. For example, you may be legally classed as homeless if you are staying with friends temporarily, or living in overcrowded conditions.
The council is legally required to give you advice and look into your situation to see whether you should get a permanent home. While the council's looking into your situation, it has to provide you with a place to stay - this is known as temporary accommodation.
In many cases it is best to remain in your current accommodation for as long as possible to ensure that the council doesn't say that you are intentionally homeless. If possible, talk to an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice before you leave your current home. Use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you.
If you are are likely to lose your home within two months
If you are likely to have to leave your accommodation within the next two months, you should be classed as threatened with homelessness.
In situations like this, the council should give you advice about whether you have a right to stay where you are. They may be able to:
- help you to negotiate with the landlord or lender
- arrange relationship counselling or mediation.
If your landlord is trying to evict you and it is unlikely that the eviction can be stopped, the council has a duty to help as if you were already homeless (see above). It should not wait until you are actually evicted before making proper enquiries.
If the council has placed you in bed and breakfast accommodation
If you're pregnant, you should not be placed in a bed and breakfast unless:
- you are homeless because of an emergency, such as a flood, or fire
- you have specifically asked to be placed in an area where there is no other temporary accommodation available, for example to be near friends or family, or your child's school.
You can also be placed in a bed and breakfast if:
- you made your homeless application outside normal office hours, or
- the council does not have any suitable temporary accommodation for you.
However, you should not have to stay there for more than 14 days.
If you are being evicted
Most people have some protection from eviction from rented accommodation or repossession from a home they own. Their landlord or mortgage lender can't just make them leave. Most people are entitled to written notice and a court order, and can only be evicted if certain conditions are met. However, you may have more limited rights if you:
- share living accommodation with your landlord or their family (for example, you live in their home as a lodger) - check the eviction procedures for common law tenants
- are living in halls of residence
- are living in temporary accommodation (for example, a hostel or temporary accommodation from the council).
If you are threatened with eviction or repossession and are unsure of your rights, get advice urgently. An adviser may be able to help by:
- checking what kind of tenancy you have
- finding out what the eviction procedure should be, and whether it has been followed. If it hasn't the landlord may be guilty of illegal eviction, which is a serious criminal offence.
If the correct procedure hasn't been followed, your landlord or lender may have to start the process again. This would give you more time to seek advice and/or find alternative accommodation.
An adviser can also:
- help you to tackle mortgage arrears or rent arrears
- look into other ways to prevent repossession, for example, by applying to the mortgage to rent scheme.
If you have no choice but to leave, and you can't organise other suitable housing, you can apply as homeless.
If your home is no longer suitable
A home that was suitable beforehand can become unsuitable during pregnancy. This is particularly likely if you are expecting your first child. Your home may become unsuitable because:
- it is not a good place to be pregnant, for example, because of steep or narrow stairs, or
- it is too small for a woman and baby, or just unsuitable for a baby. For example, a room in your parents' home or a bedsit may have been fine for you alone, but may be too small once the baby arrives.
If you cannot organise other suitable housing, you can try applying as homeless. Depending on your circumstances, the council may decide that you fall within the legal definition of homelessness. This might be the case if, for example:
- you only have basic shelter or accommodation of a very temporary nature (for example, if you're staying in a hostel or women's refuge, or are staying with friends or family temporarily)
- your home is of such a poor standard compared to other housing in the area that it is not reasonable for you to stay there, or is in such a poor state of repair that it's making you ill or wouldn't be safe for a baby
- you (or someone else in your household) are experiencing violence or threats
- you have accommodation but someone who could be expected to live with you (such as your baby's father) cannot live there as well
- you have accommodation but can't afford to keep living there without depriving herself of basic essentials such as food or heating.
If the council decides that the conditions in your home are not so bad as to make it unsuitable, you will not be classed as homeless. However, you can still apply to go on the waiting list for a permanent home and may be given priority as a result of the pregnancy.
If you already have other children, the position may be more difficult. If your home is already considered suitable for a family with children, the arrival of a baby is unlikely to make it unsuitable. When calculating whether a home is officially overcrowded, a baby doesn't count at all, and children under the age of 10 each count as only half a person.
If you have financial problems
A pregnant woman cannot be dismissed because of pregnancy, except in certain limited circumstances. If she is threatened with dismissal or is discriminated against, she should get advice from Citizens Advice, the Equality and Human Rights Commission or a solicitor.
Find out more about sex discrimination.
If you are working and intend to return to work after having the baby, you will qualify for paid maternity leave. You will get statutory maternity pay and may also qualify for extra rights as part of our employment contract. The baby's father may also qualify for paternity leave. Employers should be able to provide information and you can find out more about maternity rights at the Direct.gov website, or by talking to an adviser at your local Citizens Advice.
Welfare benefits are available to parents and prospective parents during maternity and paternity leave. This may include:
- working tax credit (which can include a childcare element for families on a low income)
- child tax credit (after the baby is born)
- income support (which can also help to pay mortgage interest)
- contribution-based jobseeker's allowance
- sure start maternity grant (for mothers only)
- housing benefit
- council tax benefit
- sick pay, if the mother is sick.
After the child is born, parents claiming benefits should have their benefits re-assessed to take into account the change in circumstances. Child benefit will be paid to one of the parents, usually the mother.
Problems paying for housing
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to apply for:
- housing benefit
- furniture projects
- a budgeting loan to spread the large costs (such as rent in advance) over time
- a crisis loan
- a community care grant.
If you are claiming housing benefit
It is very important to inform the housing benefit department of any changes in your circumstances. This includes the birth of your child, as the amount you are entitled to may change.
This may be particularly important if you are a student or are under the age of 25, as there are special rules which may affect you while you are pregnant, but once your baby is born, you'll probably be exempt.
If you need other support
Antinatal and Postnatal depression
Having a new baby is exhausting for everyone. But if you feel particularly sad, anxious, upset, guilty or desperate, you may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression. If you are, you're not alone. Don't try to hide your feelings. Talk to your GP, health visitor or midwife, who will be able to tell you about support in your area, such as counselling services or practical support. The Depression Alliance Scotland website has more information on postnatal depression, and anitinatal depression, including where you can get help and support. You can also call Parentline Scotland's Bluebell helpline on 0800 3 457 457.
As well as medical treatment during pregnancy, during labour and afterwards, the NHS provides ante natal classes and sessions to learn about hospital services and birth options. Mothers should ask their GP or midwife.
Charities and voluntary organisations
There are many charities and voluntary organisations providing information and advice about pregnancy, for example:
- National Childbirth Trust provides information and classes about birth options.
- TAMBA provides information and advice about multiple births and has a helpline on: 0800 138 0509.
- Contact a Family provides advice, information and support to the parents of all disabled children and has a free parents' helpline on: 0808 808 3555. They may be able to put the you in touch with charities and support groups for parents of disabled children with specific conditions.
- One Parent Families Scotland has an online helpdesk and a free helpline providing advice and information: 0808 801 8323.
- Parenting Across Scotland runs the OKtoAsk helpline on 0808 800 2222.