How to make a homeless application
This content applies to Scotland only.
Housing laws vary between Scotland and England. Get advice relating to England
If you are homeless or you are about to become homeless, before you can get help from the council, you have to make a homeless application. This section tells you how.
The rules that govern homelessness legislation changed at the end of 2012. The major change was the ending of the priority need test, this means that if you are assessed as unintentionally homeless you have the right to a home. This page has been updated to reflect these changes.
Making a homeless application
You can make a homeless application by going to your local council. You must explain that you are there to make a homeless application - download our sample letter or create a letter online to make it clear that you are making a homeless application. If you are homeless or likely to become homeless in the next two months, the council has to accept your application. You should not be turned away at reception - at the very least you should be given an appointment. If you are turned away, get in touch with an adviser straight away.
You will be asked to fill in a form. If English isn't your first language or you have difficulty reading or writing, you can ask for help in filling this in.
Once you have filled in the form, the council will arrange for you to have an interview with a homelessness officer.
Councils try to interview homeless applicants as quickly as possible. You may be offered an interview straight away, or the council may make an appointment for you to come back. If you don't have anywhere to stay, you should be interviewed on the same day. Interviews are usually held at the council offices, although the council may visit you at home if you have mobility problems or practical difficulties in getting to their offices.
What should I take to the interview?
The council will need to check out the details of how you have become homeless and your personal circumstances. It helps if you take all relevant documents with you to the interview. This might include:
- identification such as birth certificate(s) or passport(s) for everyone in your household
- proof of income (for example, a benefit book or wage slips)
- child benefit book
- proof of pregnancy
- tenancy agreement
- eviction notice served by landlord
- court possession papers
- a letter from the person who has asked you to leave.
You can download a checklist of things to take with you to a homeless interview. If you can't get any of this information together before your interview, don't worry, the council should still consider your application and give you time to gather the information they need.
My rights at the interview
You have the right to:
- be interviewed in a private room where you won't be overheard
- choose to be interviewed by a man or woman
- take a friend or an adviser with you
- have an interpreter if English is not your first language
- have a sign language interpreter if you have a hearing impairment.
Even if you have a friend who can translate or sign for you, you should be offered the services of a trained interpreter.
If you are in the middle of a crisis situation and find the interview upsetting or overwhelming, the homelessness officer can arrange to postpone the interview until you are feeling better.
What will the homelessness officer do?
During the interview, the homelessness officer should:
- explain the application process to you clearly, looking at all the steps of your application and how long each should take. If there's anything you don't understand, ask the homelessness officer to explain again. If English isn't your first language, the council should have leaflets containing this information in a number of different languages.
- ask if you have anywhere to stay, and arrange emergency accommodation for you if necessary
- arrange for your personal belongings to be taken into storage, if you're not able to do this yourself.
You should seek advice if:
- you are told that you cannot get temporary accommodation
- you are just handed a list of hostels and told to find somewhere yourself
- you are told that you cannot get help to store your belongings
An adviser may be able to get the council to help you find temporary accommodation.
What will the homelessness officer ask me?
The homelessness officer will ask you some questions about your situation and how you became homeless. These will include questions about:
- how many people there are in your household and who they are
- where you have been living
- why you left or will have to leave your accommodation
- whether you will be able to return there
- whether there is anywhere you can stay on a short term basis (for example, with friends or relatives)
- any health problems or disabilities you or anyone in your household has
- any problems you have had with domestic abuse or other forms of harassment
- your financial circumstances (for example, your income, whether you are claiming benefits, etc).
Depending on your circumstances, you may find some of the questions hard to answer, but it's important that you explain your situation fully. For example, you may not want to tell the homelessness officer if you have been facing domestic abuse or harassment, or if you are pregnant. However, it's important the officer has this information as it may help you pass the homeless tests (see below).
What happens next?
The council will then look into your situation. Unfortunately, the council can't offer a new home to everyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness. There are several 'tests' you will need to pass before you will be eligible for a permanent home. The section on homelessness tests explains what these are.
Whilst they are making their inquiries, the homelessness officer may need to speak to other agencies or individuals such as your landlord or mortgage lender, social work, your doctor or probation officer. However, they will not speak to anyone you don't want them to, for example your parents, an ex-partner or an abusive neighbour.
The homelessness officer may also need to visit your current accommodation to see whether it is reasonable for you to stay there.
If you have nowhere to stay, you should be offered temporary accommodation whilst the council looks into your situation and decides if you should be offered permanent accommodation. In addition, the council should also arrange to store your personal belongings if you're not able to do this yourself. If the council refuses to offer you temporary accommodation or to help you with storage, get advice immediately.
Read the section on what to do after applying as homeless to find out more about temporary accommodation and storage.
You do not have to stay in temporary accommodation while the council make their inquiries. Staying with friends or family will not affect your application.
You can download a flowchart showing the application process.