Things to consider when you're looking for a place to live
This content applies to Scotland only.
Housing laws vary between Scotland and England. Get advice relating to England
The housing options open to you depend on your particular circumstances. This section outlines the things you should consider when you're thinking about where you want to live.
Despite the variety of accommodation options, your choices may be limited. You need to be realistic about what you can afford and what is available in your area, and you may not be able to find exactly what you want within your budget. Try to be as flexible as possible, and be prepared to consider a range of options. If you are having problems finding accommodation, get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice, the council or other local advice centre.
If you are on a low income, you are unlikely to be able to afford to buy a home and your choice of rented accommodation may be much more limited. Council and housing association rents are usually lower than rents charged by private landlords.
You may be able to get help with paying for accommodation from Housing Benefit or there are rent and deposit schemes which can help you get into private rented accommodation by providing you with a deposit or upfront. Bear in mind that many private landlords are reluctant to accept tenants who rely on Housing Benefit to pay their rent.
Once you are 16 years old you are legally allowed to leave home, but you may find it hard to find suitable accommodation. Make sure you find out about your housing options before you leave.
You might find it hard to find suitable accommodation if you have a large family. You may not be able to afford to rent or buy a large place (although you may be able to apply for Housing Benefit to help you pay the rent). Councils and housing associations may have a limited number of large houses and flats available.
Health and support needs
If you need help with day to day living (for instance if you have physical or mental health problems) you may need housing where support is provided. Or you may prefer to look at ways to get support in your existing home. If you are a disabled person, you'll need to find somewhere accessible to suit your needs.
In some areas of the country there is much less housing available than in others. For example, your choice of housing may be much more limited if you live in the country rather than a large town or city. If you live in a rural area, the Rural Housing Service may be able to help you with your housing options. If you are applying for accommodation from the council or a registered social landlord (a housing association or housing cooperative), your likelihood of getting a place will depend on the availability of housing in your area. Some areas have much longer waiting lists than others.
How urgently you need accommodation
If you need to move quickly, options such as home ownership or accommodation from the council or a housing association may not be available to you because of the time it takes to find or get these kinds of housing. However, some councils offer quick access to 'hard to let' properties - check your council's website to see if this is the case in your area.
Remember, if you don't have anywhere permanent to live at the moment, for example if you are sleeping on a friend's sofa or living in a hostel or bed and breakfast hotel, you may well be legally homeless - you don't have to be living on the street to be homeless. If you are homeless, your local council has a duty to help you and should offer you somewhere temporary to stay.
How long you need the accommodation for
If you only need accommodation for a short period of time, you may not want to consider options such as home ownership. There is likely to be more short term accommodation available to rent from private landlords but remember, if you sign a contract with a private landlord for a fixed amount of time (for example, six months), you may not be able to end this contract before this time is up. This means you could be liable to pay rent until the end of the fixed period. If you have a tenancy with a council or housing association, you only need give 28 days' notice before you move out.